Washington State University is in the midst of a swine flu outbreak since classes started last month, with 2,500 people contacting student health to report flu-like symptoms and officials handing out flu kits around campus.
The number of cases of suspected swine flu dropped dramatically as students left campus over the Labor Day weekend, but school officials were closely watching the numbers Tuesday to see if this would rise as students returned.
Attendance at Saturday’s football game against Stanford was down, likely because of publicity about the flu, and the school took precautions that included placing hand sanitizer at concession stands. Coach Paul Wulff said 16 players have come down with cases of flu at different times, and top receiver Daniel Blackledge missed practice Tuesday because of the flu.
Officials have distributed about 200 free influenza kits, which include a thermometer, painkillers, throat lozenges, sport drinks, hand sanitizer and tissues. Some students wore surgical masks around campus, but most were taking it in stride.
“The students are taking it like any other type of flu,” said 21-year-old Molly Aigner, whose boyfriend came down with the flu. “It’s not like we’re growing tails or anything.”
There have been no deaths or even hospitalizations from the cases at WSU, a school with an enrollment of about 18,000 in Pullman. About a dozen patients with nausea and vomiting have required hydration, the school said.
Officials at Washington State, and at other colleges around the nation, have been anticipating large numbers of flu cases this fall because swine flu targets young people and thrives in the tight living quarters common on college campuses, said Paula Adams, community coordinator for WSU Health and Wellness Services.
Washington State started classes on Aug. 24, much earlier than most schools, and thus its outbreak has been getting more attention, Adams said.