For the second week in a row, outbreaks of influenza-like illness--generally assumed to be pandemic H1N1 influenza--have declined slightly, although experts agreed that too much should not be made of it because the virus continues to spread in the general population.
For the week of Sept. 26 to Oct. 2, a total of 6,326 new cases were reported among campus populations totaling more than 3.3 million, a 6% decline in the rate from a week earlier. There were nine hospitalizations and no deaths reported by the 273 colleges and universities that contributed data to the American College Health Assn., which conducted the survey. The survey included about one-fifth of all college students nationwide and, based on its results, the association estimated that about 183,000 cases have so far occurred among roughly 18 million students during this school year.
The highest rate of activity was in the mid-Atlantic region, which includes Virginia, Washington, D.C., North and South Carolina and Pennsylvania. In the Northeast, the highest rates were in New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Other hot spots include Mississippi, Kentucky, Minnesota and Missouri.
In other swine flu news:
- Pharmacies have been running short of suspensions of the antiviral agent Tamiflu for use in children, and last week the government released 300,000 courses of the drug from its stockpile. Meanwhile, many pharmacists have been making their own oral suspensions, dissolving the drug in a cherry syrup manufactured by the Humco Holding Group in Texarkana, Texas. Now, according to the New York Times, supplies of the syrup are also running low and the company is struggling to fill its orders.
- Many polls show that adults are reluctant to be vaccinated against swine flu because of concerns over the safety of the product. Another New York Times story, however, notes that doctors are being overwhelmed by calls from patients seeking the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesdaythat demand for the vaccine is currently outstripping supply, but that very soon, supply will likely outstrip demand.
- Wearing a surgical mask to avoid the swine flu may have some unintended consequences, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review. Burglary suspect Mitchell Hardin had his court hearing on the charges postponed for a day because his defense attorney refused to sit near the mask-wearing defendant. Hardin said he was not sick, but his cellmate had shown symptoms of the flu and jail policy was for all inmates potentially exposed to the virus to wear the masks.
-- Thomas H. Maugh II