Sparkle & Smile

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Back to School with Swine Flu

August 31, 2009

Several university campuses are reporting an influx of new swine flu infections and it has sports leagues of all nationalities and varieties talking about the global pandemic H1N1 virus. The New York Times recently reported that 31 Tulane University football players and 6 volleyball team members were believed to have contracted swine flu. According to the article Duke, Texas Christian and the University of Alabama had several players reporting flu-like symptoms with some testing positive for swine flu.  Because the virus appeared before "typical" flu season and spread so quickly, officials suspect all of the flu cases reported by these athletic teams to be H1N1, or swine flu, cases. The trend has sparked some discussion of cancelling athletic events or playing to an empty stadium, although no US schools have made any moves in this direction yet.

Last month Anne Schuchat, chief of immunization and respiratory diseases at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicated that the agency expects an increase in H1N1 cases before the normal start of the flu season in mid-autumn because school age children can easily exchange germs once they start back to school, the Times article said.

The CDC weekly FluView for August 16 – 22 echoes the New York Times article by stating that H1N1 activity appears to be increasing, especially in the Southeast, and that almost all of the influenza viruses reported were the new 2009 H1N1 influenza type A viruses. The virus has become so widespread that the CDC ceased recording confirmed and probably individual case counts. The organization stated that as the H1N1 strain became established the individual case counts became an increasingly inaccurate representation due to patients not seeking treatment or not being officially tested.  As of July 24, the CDC counted 43,771 US infections and 302 fatalities as a result of the novel H1N1 virus. The World Health Organization also announced that it has aborted tracking individual case counts.

H1N1 has been noted to strike infants, children and young adults more readily than other populations.  Probably a combination of under-developed immune systems, high social contact and poor hygiene, the health risk for those under 25 appears to be greater than that for older people. The CDC says the highest number of reported cases per 100,000 was in persons aged 5 to 24 years of age, followed by persons 0 to 4 years of age.  The infection rates for H1N1 decline steadily for those aged 25 – 49, 50 – 64 and 65+ respectively.

The CDC says that the first 100 million doses of vaccine are expected to be ready by mid-October.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the CDC hopes that 600 million doses (two for every US resident) will be made available this year to immunize the population against swine flu.
 

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