Top 5 Ways College Kids Will Get Swine Flu

Photo: College kids partake in activities that could make them more susceptible to swine flu.

Forget about good grades and securing a date for homecoming, college students heading back to campus have a far bigger concern: swine flu.

With the school year just starting, swine is already spreading across college campuses nationwide.

At least 150 suspected cases of students contracting the swine flu have been reported at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, and nearly 200 cases at the University of Kansas. School officials at the University of Tennessee have estimated 100 cases and at the University of Alabama there are more than 50 cases on just the first day alone.

VIDEO: Classrooms and dorm rooms are common places for incubation and transmission.

For more information about swine flu symptoms, treatment and prevention, check out the ABC News OnCall+ Swine Flu Center.

But with the combination of close living quarters, communal restrooms and large parties where cups and cans are swapped among friends, immunology experts say it's not a great surprise college kids are among the hardest hit by the flu.

"This virus is highly communicable and can spread very efficiently," said Dr. Philip Tierno, the director of clinical microbiology and immunology at NYU and the author of "The Secret Life of Germs."

"Swine flu is going to be a big issue at universities," said Tierno. Two factors – the sheer number of college-aged students on campuses as well as the time they spend interacting with one another – is likely to help the virus spread even faster.

For students trying to avoid contracting swine flu this semester, identified five aspects of college life that are likely to attract and transmit the virus among students.


As if sleeping in a tiny dorm room wasn't uncomfortable enough, having a sick roommate sleeping just inches away from you will likely mean you'll get infected too.

"Bunk beds especially are a risk because an individual who is ill is going to be coughing, talking, sneezing and breathing and the virus can spread in that sort of proximity," said Tierno. "It's not a good idea for a kid with the flu to cohort with a kid who is healthy." (Indeed, some colleges have already announced plans to set up separate sleeping quarters for infected students.)

And don't even think about finding a safe haven in your dorm bathroom, said Dr. Len Horovitz, an infectious disease expert at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital.

For more information about swine flu symptoms, treatment and prevention, check out the ABC News OnCall+ Swine Flu Center.

"Sharing bathrooms means sharing faucets and sinks and surfaces where viruses can live and be transmitted from person to person," said Horovitz. "For example, turning of the handle will mean leaving the virus there for the next person who uses that sink to pick up."

Horovitz recommends splashing water over as much of the sink as possible prior to touching it to wash away any germs living on the surface and suggests using a paper towel to turn off the faucets rather than touching them with bare hands when you've finished.


Students this semester might find it easier to pay attention in class than to stay healthy, thanks to the desks in lecture rooms that are often touched, sneezed on and coughed on by hundreds of students a day.

"Inanimate surfaces are places where viruses can live for hours," said Horovitz.

He advises that even if you have washed your hands prior to entering a classroom you should avoid touching your face.

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