Swine flu concerns slowing

Though Student Health Services (SHS) is no longer keeping track of confirmed swine flu cases, the clinic has recently seen a “steep drop” in flu cases, said Dr. Egilda Terenzi, medical director of SHS.

SHS is no longer testing patients for the illness, but efforts to help prevent the virus remain. It still offers free swine flu, or H1N1 Influenza, vaccinations Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Right now, vaccine availability is good, so even if we were low, the public health department would supply us with more,” said Diane Zanto, senior director of SHS.

SHS waited nearly a month last semester to receive vaccinations for the swine flu. But that’s not the case anymore. Terenzi said the clinic has about 200 to 300 vaccinations available now. The clinic is allowed to charge a fee to administer the vaccinations, which are free from the government, but it chose not to do so, she said.

While the swine flu scare has subsided some, Terenzi said there’s no way to tell why that is.

“I think the (Center for Disease Control) is exploring that at this point in time to try to find out why it has decreased, whether the mass vaccinations that were given were enough … so if there’s been enough vaccine around to create some stopping point of the vaccine in person to person transmission that may account for this,” Terenzi said. “But that’s just an absolute possibility.”

A total of 627 new influenza-like illness cases were reported from a student population of more than 2.4 million, according to American College Health Association’s (ACHA) Web site’s latest report.

Swine flu among college students is “consistent with the decreasing trends nationwide,” according to ACHA. The “nationwide attack rate” was 2.6 cases for every 10,000 students.

SHS has seen 400 to 500 cases of influenza-like illnesses since June 2009.

In July 2009, three cases of swine flu were confirmed at USF. At the time, about 80 percent of swabs going to the state from the Hillsborough County Health Department (HCHD) tested positive for swine flu.

Terenzi said she knew of only one USF student hospitalized because of the flu, and no deaths were recorded.

SHS stopped sending specimens for confirmation of the illness in July 2009 under the direction of HCHD, Terenzi said. Specimens were sent via HCHD to laboratories at the state level.

“When we received three of those positives … in our consultation (with the health department), they said, ‘That’s enough to know that you have H1N1 on your campus we do not need to confirm every one,'” Terenzi said.

For most people, the intensity of the swine flu was about the same as the seasonal flu. Both have had similar symptoms, including three to five days of fever, body aches, severe fatigue and a dry, hacking cough, Terenzi said.

According to the CDC, the seasonal flu kills about 36,000 people each year and hospitalizes more than 200,000. From Aug. 30 to Jan. 30, there were 1,905 deaths from swine flu and 39,794 hospitalizations.

“Swine flu, H1N1, is Influenza A as is most of seasonal flu,” Terenzi said. “No way to tell the difference with tests that are available for our office or even at a local laboratory.”

But it’s still uncertain of what’s to come, she said. Viruses have the possibility of mutating and coming back differently, officials just don’t know.

If students come to the clinic within the first 48 hours of feeling sick, they will receive an anti-viral, Zanto said. Sometimes, the clinic will still distribute an anti-viral for up to 72 hours.

But those medications are less effective if a student has had symptoms for two to three days.

“After that, it’s really symptomatic care … it’s rest and fluids and cover your cough and isolate yourself so that you don’t spread the illness,” Zanto said.

Terenzi said students should continue to visit the clinic – located next to the USF Bookstore – if they feel sick.