Health

Maine Schools Close for Cleaning as Sickness Sweeps Through District

Health officials say hospitals in Maine and many other places in the U.S. are full to record or near record levels

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At least two Maine schools were closed on Tuesday due to student illness.

According to an announcement from Maine School Administrative District 75 (MSAD 75), classes were canceled at Mount Ararat Middle School in Topsham and Harpswell Community School for "deep cleaning" at both buildings.

The primary symptom affecting students was described as "respiratory congestion."

Just days earlier, school officials in Portland had announced that classes were cut short at Casco Bay High School because more than a third of students and staff were absent and that Maine’s CDC had declared a flu outbreak there.

In an announcement about the early dismissal, Portland Public Schools said a deep cleaning was expected to be conducted over the weekend, with the school reopening on Monday.

According to Dr. Dora Anne Mills, chief health improvement officer for MaineHealth, the state’s largest health care group, doctors across the country are "seeing influenza rise very rapidly" and it is "causing a lot of people to be hospitalized."

Mills noted that hospitals in Maine and many other places in the United States are full to record or near record levels, adding that the illnesses and conditions causing the surge in hospitalizations include "everything from heart disease to strokes, flu, COVID and RSV."

She also said that the flu has caused some recent concern because it is not only causing many people to be hospitalized, but early data indicates that there has not been a flu season this severe "in at least 10 years."

"If you have not gotten your flu shot, you need to get it now," said Mills, adding that people who do choose to get the influenza vaccine will "get quite a bit of protection" because "the vaccine this year is a very excellent match" compared to some other years when it was less effective.

In addition to getting COVID-19 booster shots, Mills said that families gathering for the holidays could better ventilate spaces, emphasize hand washing and put extra effort into cleaning surfaces to help prevent illnesses from spreading.

She also suggested that people who have cold or fever symptoms can try to slow down the transmission of sicknesses by staying away from others when they are ill and masking.

On Tuesday, MSAD 75 officials said they expected that Mount Ararat Middle School and Harpswell Community School would reopen on Wednesday.

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