How is college life contributing to the spread of swine flu?
The H1N1 or “swine flu” has spread to hundreds of college students in the first few weeks of their new college life. Why is this happening?
Apparently, doctors blame fraternity and sorority parties as well as sports practices and dorm living. In layman’s terms, college is making kids sick.
This new evidence lends credence to the notion that the swine flu virus is in a period of resurgence.
The United States is experiencing the rate of influenza infection since the spread of the 1968 “Hong Kong flu” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. College officials from around the nation said they are operating buses to transport sick students — other schools are putting students in “isolation dorms” or even installing vaccination drive-through programs.
Another part of the problem — college age students are typically the least likely group of people to decide to get vaccination shots, maybe due to an “It won’t happen to me” attitude. This is a huge problem, as people 25 years old or younger are far more susceptible to the virulent H1N1 strain.
Those of you who went to college understand — stuff a few hundred 18 to 21 year olds in a tiny, mildewed, smoky basement in an ancient fraternity house, and you have the perfect breeding ground for the spread of disease.
One of the worst infections rates so far is at Mississippi State University, located in Starkville, Mississippi. That college is reporting more than 250 infections and cases of flu like symptoms since this past July 15. Another bad spot for swine flu infection, The University of Kansas (in Lawrence) reports more than 100 sick students currently infected with H1N1. Similar numbers can be found at The University of Tennessee in Knoxville, which estimates 100 students showing flu symptoms (at a minimum) since their classes started this past August 19.
During a typical flu season, which lasts from November through March, colleges provide vaccines at campus health clinics and may recommend that students wash their hands more, cover their coughs, and use anti bacterial soap multiple times per day — unfortunately, these messages are often ignored by college students. This year, with the number of infections from H1N1 and other flu strains already starting to skyrocket, schools are apparently increasing their efforts. Most schools are giving seasonal flu shots already (more than a month ahead of time) and posting hand sanitizer dispensers and flu safety posters across campus.
The outbreaks of flu are unusual for this time of year and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection are saying it could take a few weeks for doctors and scientists to predict if these frat house swin flu clusters could turn into more widespread outbreaks across the country.
The University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, started a “flu bus” to transport sick students from residence halls to health services. With a large campus, the university wants to avoid infections spreading on public transportation, said Robert Winfield, Michigan’s chief health officer and director of the university health service.
Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina, reports that 25 of their football players have been or are sick this month. For its part, Duke has reserved an off-campus apartment building with about 30 beds to house and isolate students who may have a high risk for being harmed by flu.
Amherst College, in Amherst, Massachusetts, has two residence halls kept empty this fall to isolate potential swine flu patients, and has even agreed to house infected students from four other local colleges and schools.
Oklahoma State University, in Stillwater, lists 75 students as “swine flue” patients in the past three weeks alone. Oklahoma State spokespersons readily admit that many of these cases ave been attributed to students attending sorority rush before the school year officially started.
The University of Arizona in Tucson is planning what may become a regular sight at college campuses — a swine flu drive-through clinic for flu shots, set to open later in September. The campus has akleady seen 25 cases in the few weeks since students returned to school.
For most campuses, seasonal flu shots have arrived or will soon be arriving. A separate vaccine for swine flu, which doctors say may require two or three shots given over a three-week period, won’t be ready until the middle of October, according to the CDC. That late date may be too late for students, whose semesters end around December. Will the sinw flu vaccine arrive in time to cut down on outbreaks among a student population? Not to mention this is a population with little to no natural immunity.
For those not in the know, a Sorority’s “rush” period may be especially conducive to spreading flu because women pledging for a sorority spend a long time together in close contact.
Good news for students — most colleges are asking professors and school function groups to be lenient about student absences. Colleges don’t want sick students going to class to keep up their grade, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Sick students are being told to stay home, and doctor’s notes are usually not being required to justify student absences. This info came down from the CDC, so your professors and parents won’t think you’re making this up.
Most college campuses have stopped attempting to test students for H1N1 and are tracking the number of students showing flu and swin flu like symptoms instead. The CDC continues to sample patients randomly at certain hospitals and clinics in order to make an attept to track the size and location of outbreaks.