Campus Health reports increase in ASU swine flu cases

Published On:
Friday, October 23, 2009
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ASU’s health centers have seen a large increase in the number of people reporting swine flu-like symptoms in the past week, said Dr. Allan Markus, director of Campus Health Services.

Campus health centers have confirmed 44 cases of the swine flu among students, faculty and staff since last week, which could signify a second wave of infection, he said.

College students are at a higher risk of transmitting the virus because of population density within university communities, Markus said.

“Because of the living conditions in group settings and close quarters, it is clear that one of the highest groups for transmission is college students,” he said.

If you come within six feet of a person who has the H1N1 flu, you have an 18 percent chance of contracting it, Markus said.

Art junior James McLernon said he had flu-like symptoms after being exposed to someone coughing for several hours during an exam.

“The guy wasn’t covering his mouth,” McLernon said.

His test came back 98-percent positive for H1N1, he said.

“I was surprised I had it,” McLernon said.

Dr. Karen Lewis, medical director of the Arizona Department of Health Services Immunization Program, said the flu spreads in saliva and through contaminated hands.

The virus enters the body through eyes, nose and mouth, she said, adding that surfaces can be infected through sneezing and coughing.

Lewis said she suggested students avoid saliva and assume their hands are dirty.

There have been 39 confirmed H1N1 deaths in Arizona since April, she said.

This flu season, 95 percent of Maricopa County’s flu cases are H1N1, according to county statistics.

The best protection from the virus is the vaccine, Lewis said.

“If I had to do one thing … every winter to stay healthy, it would be getting an influenza vaccine,” she said.

Markus said ASU promotes an easy four-step approach to prevent contracting or spreading H1N1. If you’re sick, stay home; cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm to avoid spreading the virus; wash your hands with alcohol-based cleanser for 20 seconds; and get the vaccine, he said.

“Do those four things and we can keep the flu from ASU,” Markus said.

He recommends students pick up cold and flu kits, which are available in campus markets, so students can treat themselves without going to the school’s health centers.

However, anyone who is pregnant or has underlying health problems should visit a health center if experiencing any flu-like symptoms, he said.

So far, 50 doses of the H1N1 vaccine have been delivered to ASU, Markus said.

The first doses are in nasal-spray form and are reserved for workers at ASU’s four health care centers, he said.

Another 20,000 doses are on order for students, faculty and staff and are expected to arrive at the end of October or early November, Markus said.

Overall, the number of infected people at ASU is still low, but this could be the peak of the second round of the virus, he said.