Camp Sunshine honored for quick response to infectious outbreak

An outbreak of a highly contagious virus is always serious, but when it happens at a summer camp for children with life-threatening illnesses, the stakes are even higher.

Last summer, Camp Sunshine in Casco, a retreat for kids and families facing conditions ranging from cancer to kidney disease, got hit with an outbreak of viral gastroenteritis. Often called the stomach flu, the infection is caused by a variety of viruses that lead to vomiting or diarrhea (it’s not caused by the influenza viruses, however). While most people recover from the bug without any long-term effects, those with compromised immune systems are at risk for severe dehydration, sometimes requiring hospitalization.

Camp officials identified an attendee from out of state as the source, and moved rapidly to contain the outbreak, explained Executive Director Matt Hoidal. Protocols to maintain campers’ health and safety were put to the test, ultimately preventing further spread of the virus.

Camp Sunshine is now being honored for its quick response with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Pump-Handle Award, which recognizes efforts to reduce the impact of infectious diseases in Maine. The camp worked closely with Maine CDC, providing information that allowed for surveying, follow-up on test results, and improved outbreak response in the community, according to a press release from the center.

The Pump-Handle Award’s name is a tribute to Dr. John Snow, “who is considered by many to be the father of epidemiological science,” the press release states. (Not that Jon Snow, “Game of Thrones” fans). Snow identified a public water pump as the source of a cholera outbreak in London in 1854, and convinced authorities to remove the handle, disabling the pump and preventing the collection of more contaminated water.

From the press release, this year’s other award recipients are:

Mercy Hospital was recognized for its response to a highly publicized case of a rabid fox in Portland and for its decision to immediately make medication for treatment for exposure available to other healthcare systems, which were seeing a high volume of people with symptoms. The hospital also cared for five people who were exposed to rabies.

The Bangor Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic, one of two clinics in the state, has been instrumental in Maine’s ability to provide STD screening, treatment and disease surveillance in the Northern part of the state. The commitment and dedication of clinic staff have helped many people living with HIV/AIDS know their status, get connected to important medical care and support services, and identify and test potential partners who may have been exposed to HIV.

The Maine School Nurses Association was chosen for the hard work and dedication of Maine’s school nurses, particularly for their dedication to organizing and operating Maine’s school-located vaccine clinics. School nurses responded to the need during the spread of the H1N1 flu virus and have continued to assure the availability of flu vaccines to students in schools.



Jackie Farwell

About Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and finding new ways to help you stay well. I live in Gorham with my husband Nick and our hound dog Riley.