August 27, 2009 in City

Extensive flu outbreak is expected at WSU

From Staff Reports

Washington State University doctors anticipate the H1N1 influenza virus will sweep across its Pullman campus within the next several weeks as about 18,000 students start classes.

The university’s Health and Wellness Services reported that about 50 students complained of flu-like symptoms. About 30 of those were tested, and seven cases came back positive for a strain of influenza A, said associate medical director Dr. Dennis Garcia. Further testing would be needed to determine if those cases were seasonal flu or H1N1 – commonly called swine flu. Most confirmed influenza A cases are H1N1, he said.

“Most students are sick for four to five days and that’s it,” he said. “The silver lining in all of this is that students who get influenza now shouldn’t get it during finals week.”

In a normal year, he said, about one in 10 students are vaccinated against seasonal flu. This year WSU expects greater vaccination numbers. Seasonal flu vaccines should be available to WSU students soon. The vaccines to combat H1N1 won’t arrive until mid- to late October.

Spokane County health officer Dr. Joel McCullough met with the representatives of Spokane-area colleges Wednesday morning to discuss prevention and possible vaccination plans. He said universities are receptive to spreading the message of flu-fighting techniques, including hand-washing, coughing into tissues, encouraging staff and students to stay home if they are ill, and receiving vaccines when available.

“With all of the information out there … we’re hoping it works,” he said.

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