Eight cases of H1N1 were confirmed at the College on Wednesday, after 29 students reported flu-like symptoms this past week.
Preparations for the possibility of a swine flu epidemic began last spring after Maine's first official case of swine flu was confirmed. Throughout the summer, Bowdoin's administration monitored the spread of the virus through summer camps across the state.
According to Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, this year's H1N1 outbreak is not the first time the possibility of a pandemic has threatened the College.
"The avian bird flu got [the Campus Emergency Team] thinking about what would happen if we had a pandemic," said Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster. "When the swine flu popped up we were able to go back to the plan we had developed for the bird flu."
Quarantining students is an important aspect of the College's plan to stem the spread of H1N1.
Residential Life has eight beds reserved for ill students in Chamberlain—four for females and four for males. In addition, there are 14 beds available in the Dudley Coe Health Center.
While the number of beds vacant at this point may seem low, considering that the Maine Center for Disease Control predicts that 30 to 40 percent of college-aged people will get the virus this flu season, more beds will become available soon.
"In two weeks Dudley Coe will move over to the new Buck Center and then we will actually have more beds than we have available now," said Foster.
Health administrators are making sure to place anyone with flu-like symptoms in quarantine as a precaution. While the quarantined students may not all have H1N1, they are being treated with caution.
Though the virus is extremely contagious, students can recover from symptoms fairly quickly. After only a week, nine sick students have already been cleared to return to their dorms and resume normal classes.
Antonio Watson '12, currently living in isolation in Chamberlain, said he visited the health center with a sore throat and fever. Watson was first moved into Dudley Coe, and then into Chamberlain after a room opened up.
"It isn't 'quarantine' because it's not mandatory," said Watson. "They recommend that students are isolated so that they can try to control the spread of this flu."
"They have to send the tests out to the State of Maine for processing and the results won't come back until like a week later," he added.
Many ill students who live close to campus went home until they were well enough to return to the College. Given the hype surrounding the virus and its spread, it may be surprising that the H1N1 virus is, for most, a mild illness.
"The flu itself is fairly manageable. Well, for me at least. There was a guy who was in isolation with me in Dudley Coe who was throwing up pretty badly, but I think he's getting a little better now," said Watson.
Foster agreed that for most students, the flu is not a cause for great alarm.
"I think people need to keep perspective. If some people come down with it early then it will it run its course."
More at risk are those individuals with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma. Due to the fact that some individuals could have serious complications, the school must be vigilant in detecting who has the virus.
"When someone gets sick we want to know who they are living with because if they are living with someone who has a compromised immune system or asthma we want to bring those people in just to make sure," said Foster.
Students living on the third floor of Chamberlain Hall have are especially familiar with the precautionary measures taken by the College.
Alicia Sorensen-Biggs '11, whose room is in the same hallway as the isolation rooms, commented on the stigma attached to her dorm.
"It sucked not having much forewarning about living on the quarantine floor, but they are making the best of a difficult situation by having strict rules in place for the ill students to follow. Now though, it's a matter of the quarantined students following them," wrote Sorensen-Biggs in an e-mail to the Orient.
"Even outside of Chambo, it's not fair to the campus if someone knows they are sick and trying to hide it. H1N1 is extremely contagious," Sorensen-Biggs added. "If as a community we don't want it to spread like wildfire, we need to care enough about each other and be proactive in this whole situation."
Perry Trethaway '10, head RA of Chamberlain Hall, found an advantage to living in the quarantine dorm.
"Because we are the home of 'the quarantine,' the housekeepers are doing a phenomenal job of sterilizing and sanitizing the building and the bathrooms," Trethaway said.
"They are cleaning twice a day now," she added. "So in some ways, you might even say we are the cleanest and healthiest place on campus."