January 17, 2013

Maine flu outbreaks quadruple to 125, new surge may hit

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Kristin Harris, a pharmacist at Rite Aid on Forest Avenue in Portland, administers a flu shot to Justin Ehringhaus, a freshman at Bowdoin College, on Thursday, January 17, 2013.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

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"I've never gotten one before, but it seemed like things were bad this year," he said.

Professors at Bowdoin told Ehringhaus and other students that if they have the flu, they should wait before going back to school.

Tina Veilleux, nurse coordinator for Portland's public schools, said Portland has fared well so far.

"We haven't reached the 15 percent absent rate, which would trigger a report to the CDC," she said. "But things have definitely peaked in the last week or two."

The city of Portland will host a free clinic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at City Hall. The city's clinic on India Street offers free flu shots on a walk-in basis every weekday.

This year's flu season has been compounded by high rates of other respiratory illnesses, along with increased prevalence of norovirus. Some people have mistaken other viruses for the flu.

The hardest part, health officials said, is stopping the flu from spreading. Many people who are sick are reluctant to take multiple days off work or school, and when they do show up, others suffer, Pinette said.

Carolyn Beem, spokeswoman for L.L. Bean, one of Maine's largest employers, said the company has not been hit hard by the flu.

More than half of L.L. Bean's employees took advantage of free flu shot clinics in the fall, and the company strongly advocates that people stay at home if they are sick, even if that does go against what Beem called "the traditional Maine work ethic."

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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