September 11, 2009 in City

WSU’s No. 1 for swine flu

Campus gives state the nation’s highest rate of infected students
Nicholas K. Geranios Associated Press
 
File photo

Signs posted at the clinic at WSU in Pullman point out how to deal with flu symptoms that have stricken about 2,500 students over the past few weeks.
(Full-size photo)

Free graphic available at Web site

A graphic covering the basics of the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, is available for download on spokesman.com.

The graphic, developed by staff artist Molly Quinn and reporter John Stucke, appeared in The Spokesman-Review on Sunday. It includes information such as swine flu symptoms, who is most at risk of serious illness, what to do if you think you have the virus, and how to prevent infection.

The graphic is available as a PDF at spokesman.com; look near the top of the page under “Quick links” for “Swine flu graphic.” There’s no charge to download the graphic.

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.

WSU’s outbreak shows little sign of abating. The school reported that 128 students contacted health officials with flu-like symptoms 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 WSU.

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, said Paula Adams of the university’s Health and Wellness Services.

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 WSU 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 few 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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