University confirms first swine flu case

Amber Wade

Officials encourage communication, good hygiene to halt spread

CHECK OUT a graphic detailing how H1N1 can spread and what you can do if you get it.

The first case of the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, at Kent State has been confirmed in a student who does not live on campus.

The student did not require hospitalization because of the illness, according to a statement on the university’s flu Web site, www.kent.edu/flu.

Tom Neumann, associate vice president for University Communications, said the case was confirmed yesterday at University Health Services.

“It shows that we did a good job prepping for it,” environmental health professor Chris Woolverton said. “This is the fifth week of class, and it’s just the first case. Others had it within the first week of classes.”

Woolverton said the university would continue with the same actions it’s been doing. This includes telling students and faculty to practice personal hygiene such as washing hands, covering their mouths when they cough and isolating themselves if they become ill.

“The flu is mostly self-rectifying, meaning the body just has to deal with it,” Woolverton said. He said there are clear indicators of when medical attention should be sought, such as severe coughing, pain or trouble breathing.

University Health Services has tested hundreds of students, with most diagnoses being common colds, bronchitis and strep throat, according to the university’s flu Web site. Six students have been diagnosed with influenza-like illness.

HOW TO PREVENT

GETTING SICK:

– Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Immediately throw away used tissues.

– Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Wash hands well for 30 seconds – about the time it takes to sing happy birthday twice. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. Remind others to do the same, particularly in situations where you are sharing equipment such as phones and computers.

– Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

– If you get sick with a combination of sore throat, fever, cough or other flu-like symptoms, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to prevent infecting them. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Source: http://www.kent.edu/flu

Provost Robert Frank said the university has urged faculty members to develop ways for students to keep up with classes if they get the flu.

“If a student develops the flu, they should contact their faculty by phone or e-mail and let them know they are ill,” Frank wrote in an e-mail. “The student should keep up with their work while staying away from others.”

In a letter to address student concerns last week, Dr. Michael Grusenmeyer, chief university physician, said university officials have assumed swine flu was already here and have planned for its confirmation – providing masks and sanitizing wipes in residence halls and arranging food service and wellness checks on ill students living on campus.

The swine flu vaccine is not available yet, but Grusenmeyer said in his letter the university hopes to make it “available to as many people as possible as quickly as possible” when it arrives.

Portage County reported its first case of the swine flu virus last spring. The Portage County Health Department is now only doing surveillance on the situation, not keeping count of specific cases.

“We’re not encouraging testing,” said Kelly Englehart, director of nursing at the Portage County Health Department. “It’s in our community. It’s in our schools. It’s here.”

In early September, the American College Health Association reported that more than half of the 165 colleges that track swine flu cases had infected students.

Contact health reporter Amber Wade at [email protected] Enterprise reporter Nicole Stempak also contributed to this story.