H1N1 cases hit Ohio colleges

Steve Bushong

Faculty prepare for flu absences

Swine flu will probably infect Kent State students this fall, officials said, and the university is bracing for the worst as other colleges in the state report infections.

Half of the 165 colleges that track swine flu cases have already reported infected students, according to The American College Health Association.

A less certain prospect is when the virus will strike and how widespread it will be.

The outbreak can go two ways, environmental health professor Christopher Woolverton said. The first scenario, in which the virus is well-contained, requires everyone to play his part.

The infected must practice quick self-isolation, and everyone else must use a lot of hand soap.

The second scenario includes rampant infection. Swine flu spreads easily among people because it’s new, and their bodies have not developed a resistance to it.

At least two Ohio universities have reported infections.

On Aug. 23, two students at Xavier University reported flu-like symptoms. By Aug. 27, more than 50 students reported sickness. As of Tuesday, more than 110 probable cases of swine flu had been reported on campus.

“Some people say, ‘Hey, it’s just the flu,'” said Laurel Bauer, a university spokeswoman at Xavier. “But it does spread quickly.”

Miami University has recorded 130 probable cases of swine flu since Aug. 21, one day after freshmen moved to campus.

So far, no cases have been reported at the University of Akron, spokeswoman Laura Massie said.

Swine flu levels have stayed steady or decreased across the nation recently, with the exception of the southeastern United States, which have seen an increase, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Provost Robert Frank directed faculty to undertake two “critical steps” in case of a swine flu outbreak yesterday.

In an e-mail, he said faculty must develop a plan for students who miss class because of swine flu. The CDC says infected people may not be able to provide a doctor’s note, as they are asked not to come to health centers, where ill people may be more vulnerable to the virus.

Faculty must also develop an alternate plan for exams.

“It is inevitable that swine flu is coming to Kent State, and people should be vigilant,” Frank said.

The Pandemic Planning and Preparation Committee has been planning for a virus outbreak since last spring. The committee is keeping an eye on vaccine availability and sickness levels nationally and on other campuses.

Contact news correspondent Steve Bushong at [email protected].