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Colleges See Rise in H1N1 Swine Flu

Campuses Are Experiencing First Increase in Cases Since Last Fall
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 24, 2010 -- College campuses are seeing the first uptick in new H1N1 swine flu cases since November.

New H1N1 swine flu cases are up 52% since last week -- to 4.1 cases per 10,000 students from 2.7 per 10,000 last week, the American College Health Association (ACHA) reports. Of the AHCA's 178 members, 59% report new cases of swine flu.

"We may be seeing a bit of an uptick," AHCA Executive Director James C. Turner, MD, said at today's meeting of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

Rates of new infections were highest on campuses in Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, and Mississippi. In Missouri, the swine flu attack rate was up 17-fold over the previous week.

Even so, CDC flu expert Anthony Fiore, MD, says there's no overall indication that a new wave of H1N1 swine flu is under way. National surveillance still shows the flu pandemic continuing to decline, although there's a small uptick in some Southwestern states.

One reason for the decline is that about 30% of Americans have been vaccinated against H1N1 swine flu. About 86 million Americans received some 97 million doses of H1N1 swine flu vaccine since vaccinations began in late October 2009.

That's a lot of vaccinations, but there could have been more. The CDC's James Singleton says that enough vaccine has been delivered to vaccinate 42% of U.S. residents.

As many as 60% of children under age 9 got both of the recommended vaccine doses. That's fortunate, because kids under age 4 had a very high rate of severe disease. And for kids ages 5 to 17, the 2009-2010 H1N1 swine flu has been the worst flu season since CDC surveillance began, according to data presented by the CDC's Lyn Finelli, DrPH.

While the vaccine was created, produced, and delivered at record speed, it did not arrive before new H1N1 swine flu infections peaked around Oct. 24, 2009. At that time, more people saw a doctor for flu symptoms than at any time since seasonal flu record keeping began.

H1N1 swine flu hospitalizations and deaths peaked a few weeks later. But the death rate was not exceptionally high as flu seasons go. That's because this flu pandemic largely spared the elderly, among whom most flu deaths usually occur.

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