Swine flu news and resources

Posted April 30, 2009, at 10:40 p.m.

EMMC offers public swine flu information

With updates being released each day on the H1N1 swine flu, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor has created a new informational Web page, which may be found at www.emmc.org. The site will be updated regularly to reflect the latest information about the spreading epidemic and steps Mainers can take to protect themselves and their loved ones.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers a toll-free informational hot line at 888-257-0990.

Additional information is available online at www.mainepublichealth.gov and www.pandemicflu.gov.

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EMMC cancels reunion citing virus worries

The annual patient and family reunion of the Eastern Maine Medical Center neonatal intensive care unit scheduled for Sunday, May 3, has been postponed. Although the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet recommended social distancing for the general population, the hospital is concerned that former NICU patients may be especially vulnerable to the virus.

Once a new date for the reunion is determined, EMMC will mail notifications to NICU families from the last two years, post the information on www.emmc.org and inform local media.

For more information about the NICU reunion, call 973-8781.

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Churches encourage anti-flu precautions

The Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches have announced precautions to help prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus among clergy and parishioners. These include encouraging churchgoers to receive Holy Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue, to abstain from sharing the consecrated wine and to avoid shaking hands with each other during the “passing of the peace” segment of the service.

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Gas mask business booming in Brewer

The swine flu may have some Maine economists spooked, but Frank Spizuoco of Maine Military Supply in Brewer says business is booming.

In the past few days, he said, he has sold hundreds of gas masks over his Internet site, primarily to individual buyers in southern-tier states.

“It’s because of this scare,” Spizuoco said. “People are all wound up.”

He appreciates the business, but acknowledged that using a military-style gas mask is probably overkill in dealing with the influenza virus.

Public health experts do not recommend wearing a gas mask to protect against the flu.

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Emergency conference explores scenarios

AUGUSTA, Maine — The H1N1 epidemic was one of many disaster scenarios represented Thursday at the first Maine Partners in Emergency Preparedness conference at the Augusta Civic Center. Other than a giant economy-sized bottle of alcohol-based hand cleaner prominently placed on a small table by the main entrance, there was little evidence that the long-expected epidemic was under way.

Workshops at the two-day “all-hazards” conference offered information on toxic spills, bomb threats, school shootings and weather-related disasters such as floods and ice storms.

Keynote speaker James Lee Witt, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Clinton and now a prominent private consultant on disaster preparedness and response, said state and federal responders are “right on top” of the viral epidemic.

Witt, who as FEMA director toured Maine with then-Vice President Gore during the ice storm of 1998, said partnerships between public agencies and private businesses are essential to a speedy disaster response.

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Maine attorney general warns of flu scams

The Maine Office of the Attorney General has become aware of an influx of e-mails with the phrase “swine flu” in the subject line. These e-mails may have links to advertisements for an alleged flu medicine. Clicking on these sites poses a danger that a person’s credit card information will be stolen or that the consumer will be tricked into buying a counterfeit or completely ineffective medicine or some other worthless product, the AG’s office said.

Attorney General Janet T. Mills said consumers who receive an unsolicited swine flu e-mail should not open attachments or links, and should use a spam filter.

“It is truly unfortunate,” Mills said, “that anyone would take advantage of concerned members of the public in order to make a fast profit.”

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Maine company sees demand for flu test kits

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WESTBROOK, Maine — Idexx Laboratories Inc. says it’s seeing an uptick in business for its swine flu testing kits because of the spread of the virus around the globe.

WGME-TV reports that each Idexx swine flu kit is capable of screening up to 5,000 pigs.

Idexx is based in Westbrook and develops and manufactures products and services for veterinary, food and water applications.

Compiled by BDN reporter Meg Haskell

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