Influenza affecting Midcoast school sports teamsWell-being of young student-athletes puts practices, events in jeopardy
Seasonal influenza has hit Midcoast communities hard this winter and that is beginning to have an impact on high school athletics.
Several schools in Knox, Waldo and Lincoln counties have been impacted, particularly Lincoln Academy of Newcastle and Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, which have had a significant number of students recently miss classes with the flu.
In fact, Lincoln Academy athletic director A.J. Anastacio rescheduled the Friday, Jan. 11 boys and girls varsity and jayvee basketball games with Mount View of Thorndike to Tuesday, Jan. 22 due to a "flu outbreak" at the school, said Mount View athletic director Chuck Karter.
"He [Anastacio] called me this morning [Jan. 10] and we talked about it and he told me, 'This is a pretty big issue down here,' " said Karter.
Karter said the Mustang girls basketball practices scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 10 were canceled due to not having enough students to run practice between the varsity and junior varsity squads. The boys basketball teams did practice Thursday, but "they have been battling [the flu bug] as well," he said.
Karter said he feels all schools have been impacted, though "some are worse off than others."
"It's not unlike what we remember with the swine flu thing [in 2009] where people were trying to restrict mass gatherings and things like that," said Karter. "It sounds like between Lincoln Academy and Medomak [Valley], it's pretty intense."
Medomak Valley boys varsity basketball coach Nick DePatsy said the illness "has gone right through my whole team except maybe two kids."
"The whole team was sick and coughing [during Tuesday's game at Winslow] and then the next day we had five kids out," he said.
Medomak Valley athletic director Matt Lash canceled all athletic practices Wednesday, Jan. 9 in response to the rising flu numbers at the school, which has seen the number of students out with the illnesses rise from Jan. 7 to Jan. 10.
Roughly 200 of the 570 students enrolled at MVHS were out sick Jan. 10, but others have stated that about 43 percent of the school's population missed classes that day with illness.
The numbers have swelled so greatly that MVHS Principal Harold Wilson sent an email to parents waiving all student-excused absences for the week.
While Oceanside High School and Camden Hills Regional High School have seen little to no impact by the sudden rise in influenza in the area, Belfast Area High School has had a few student-athletes out with the bug as well, said athletic director Mark Babin.
Babin said it has been "affecting individuals more than affecting teams."
"We've had some kids out sick, but it hasn't been devastating," he said. "It's impacted practices to a degree, but it hasn't been large numbers."
Camden Hills athletic director Steve Alex said the school had a second round of flu shots at the school Thursday, Jan. 10 in response to the rising number of affected students in area schools.
According to Pen Bay Medical Center's Infection Prevention Team, it is recommended to stay home if anyone has any signs of the flu.
"If you are sick, whether it be with cough or “cold” symptoms (with or without fever) or diarrhea, stay home if possible," according to a statement. "In particular, do not visit hospitalized friends or relatives if you have these symptoms. And avoid contact with others in the community who may be at similarly increased risk for serious flu or diarrheal illness due to extremes of age (the elderly and infants) or other chronic medical conditions. We at Pen Bay would like to do everything possible to limit the spread of influenza and norovirus infections, especially among those who may be more likely to become seriously ill with these viruses."
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.