Swine flu outbreak at Washington St. may be easing

PULLMAN, Wash. -- A swine flu outbreak at Washington State University that is suspected of sickening more at least 2,200 students may be tapering off, a campus health official said Monday.

Dr. Dennis Garcia said 40 to 50 students a day have contacted the health service at the campus in Pullman this weekend to report flu symptoms. That's down from roughly 150 a day last week.

Garcia notes many students have gone home for the Labor Day weekend, but there are still signs the outbreak may have peaked.

"It's hard to say exactly what's going on, but it seems like things are slowing down a little bit," said Garcia, senior associate director of Health and Wellness Services at WSU.

Colleges across the country have been seeing spikes in the number of suspected cases of swine flu as dorms fill up and classes begin for the fall semester, putting students in close proximity that makes it easier for the virus to spread.

About 2,200 students at WSU have contacted the health service so far, and Garcia estimated 1,000 more may have gotten sick. None of the students required hospitalization.

Based on estimates from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Garcia said about 5,000 students can be expected to come down with the bug. That's about one-third of the enrollment at the campus.

In accordance with CDC guidelines, the university is no longer testing patients to confirm swine flu infection.

The outbreak at WSU began soon after classes started two weeks ago, and officials at that time thought it might last six to eight weeks. "But if this weekend is any indication, it could be over in another couple of weeks," Garcia said.

Compared with other types of influenza, the swine flu or H1N1 strain is relatively mild, Garcia said. He said most students suffer three to five days of discomfort, such as fever, congestion, sore throat and fatigue.

WSU is urging people who think they have flu-like symptoms to stay home, rest and get plenty of fluids. Officials also are handing out free flu kits, including a thermometer, painkillers, throat lozenges, sport drinks, hand sanitizer and tissues.


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