September 10, 2009 in City

Washington tops swine flu rate among students

Associated Press
 

Washington has the highest incidence of swine flu among college students — nearly triple the rate of Georgia, the next highest state, an American College Health Association report said Thursday.

With the biggest college campus outbreak in the country, Washington State University in Pullman has pushed the state’s rate to 366.8 cases of swine flu per 10,000 students, far above the national average of 18 cases per 10,000 students, the association said.

The number of swine flu cases among students is surging across the country as more colleges open for fall classes. The report counted cases through last Friday, and the association has been getting swine flu numbers from 236 colleges that serve 2.7 million students.

“We’re all hoping it never gets as bad as it does in Washington,” said Dr. James C. Turner of the University of Virginia, who is president of the association. “That remains to be seen.”

Other states are also getting hammered. Georgia is second in cases — 909 — and in incidence rate — 125.6 per 10,000 students. North Carolina has 773 cases and a rate of 49.4 per 10,000 cases.

Washington State’s outbreak shows little signs of abating. The school reported that 128 students contacted health officials with flu-like symptoms on Wednesday, and one high-risk patient has been hospitalized for dehydration but was expected to recover.

The university’s incidence rate could grow higher. As of last Friday, the state reported 919 cases of swine flu among college students — most coming from Washington State.

But Washington State in recent days has been reporting 2,500 cases of swine flu among students.

The university initially underreported its cases to the college health association, thinking it should only count flu cases diagnosed by a doctor, Paula Adams of the university’s Health and Wellness Services said.

But the association is asking its members to also count students who call health services to report flu symptoms, but don’t come in to be checked, Turner said.

The high numbers at Washington State are difficult to explain, Turner said. But officials at the school have speculated that its early start date, in late August, gave the H1N1 virus more time to spread among the student population.

Nearly all patients at the school have reported only mild symptoms and have recovered in three to five days.

Nationally, 7,002 cases of swine flu on college campuses were reported through last Friday, Turner said. Illnesses have been mild, with no deaths and just a handful of hospitalizations.

But with many colleges around the country just starting classes, how big the outbreak will become remains a mystery, Turner said.

“We don’t know exactly how this will go across the country,” Turner said. “We’ve never tracked this before.”

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