Swine flu increases 9% on college campuses from previous week

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Influenza-like illnesses, presumed to be mostly pandemic H1N1 influenza, continued to increase on college campuses last week, according to weekly results from the American College Health Assn. There were 7,099 new cases reported among college populations totaling nearly 3.4 million students, a 9% increase from the previous week. That makes the total for the academic year 47,000 cases. There were also 13 hospitalizations last week, bringing the seasonal total to 78. There have been no deaths reported.

Although declines have been observed in the Southeast and Northeast, continued robust activity was reported in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain area and Southwest. Statewide outbreaks continue to be active in the West and Northwest.

In other flu news:

- Purdue statisticians reported last week in the journal Eurosurveillance that a mathematical model of the swine flu pandemic predicts that the disease will peak this week and that the vaccine will arrive too late to do much good. But officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have emphasized repeatedly that trying to predict what any form of flu will do in the future will most likely be an exercise in futility. ‘We may see in any particular community illness going down in next several weeks, but we don’t know whether it is going to go up again,’ said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease. Plus, CDC researchers have been studying the 1957 Asian flu pandemic, in which there was an early wave of disease around September and October, ‘like what we are seeing here. They had another big wave after the first of the year. And so I think that as vaccine becomes available, we are committed to get it out to the people who would benefit from it.’

- Confirming information researchers have long known, data compiled by Quest Diagnostics shows that swine flu most often starts its spread in schools and then reaches the general population, according to Reuters. Quest, which does laboratory testing for physicians, clinics and others, has data from more than 76,500 specimens collected between May 11 and Oct. 11. Those data show that there was a sharp rise in infections among schoolchildren at the end of August and the beginning of September and that it was only several weeks later that they observed a rise in other groups.


- Canada announced today that it has approved the swine flu vaccine produced by GlaxoSmithKline and that vaccinations will begin next week. The country has already distributed 2 million doses of the vaccine and expects to provide an additional 50.4 million doses, according to Reuters--enough for all its population--but vaccinations could not begin until the vaccine was formally approved. The pandemic has so far killed 83 people in Canada and hospitalized more than 1,500.

- The PBS television series ‘Sid the Science Kid’ will air a special episode Monday that explores the science behind influenza vaccination. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Washington, D.C. schoolchildren watch a special screening of the new episode today. ‘In this special episode, Sid explains how vaccines work and shows millions of children what they can do to prevent the spread of flu,’ she said. Other flu-related activities are also available online at the series’ website.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II