Colleges across the country have stepped up efforts to combat the swine flu as the first few weeks of classes brought outbreaks to some campuses, and a few deaths.
Cornell University junior Warren J. Schor died last Friday after contracting the swine flu, becoming the third college student nationally to die because of complications related to the virus, according to Inside Higher Education, an online source for college news.
Cornell has seen 555 probable cases of H1N1 this semester, Claudia Wheatley, a university spokeswoman confirmed. Wheatley said Schor's passing has put the seriousness of the virus into perspective.
"It's been a bit of a shock," Wheatley said. "People are realizing that even though the vast majority of cases of the virus have been mild to moderate, this flu can be very serious."
As the flu season approaches, college officials are inventing new ways to ready themselves for a wave of sick students on campus.
Cornell has established a 24-hour flu hotline where students can receive medical advice from nurses about whether they should treat themselves for the virus or see a health practitioner for further medical attention. If students report severe symptoms or their condition worsens, the university will provide them with transportation to a hospital or health facility, Wheatley said.
"We cover the bases of the whole spectrum of what the illness can be," Wheatley said. "We emphasize in our message that if a student's condition worsens, they really need to get the advice of a health practitioner."
Most of the 555 students who reported flu-like illnesses have already recuperated, Wheatley said.
Washington State University has seen more than 2,600 reports of students complaining of flu-like symptoms, according to its Web site.
The spread of the virus has led WSU officials to create a blog, H1N1 Flu @ WSU, with daily updates about the number of people contacting health services with flu-like symptoms. The university has also posted a color-coded flu phase chart on its site which tells students the current status of the virus on campus.
Looking ahead to a situation in which thousands of students are sick on campus, school officials at the University of Florida are planning to teach asynchronously -- meaning faculty and students don't necessarily have to be in the same place at the same time to interact with one another.
The plan is to direct sick students to an online course management system where they can watch lectures, view PowerPoint presentations and communicate with their professors, said Dr. Andrew McCullough, UF associate provost for information technology.
"We think this will enable us to maintain teaching, maintain the instructional activities of the university at a relatively high level if we're faced with this swine flu epidemic," McCullough said.
Emory University, a private college in Georgia with 12,755 students, has set aside a dorm on its campus where students infected with H1N1 can go to recover. The dorm is not considered a quarantine area because students exposed to the virus are not forced to stay there.
In its first two weeks of school, Emory reported more than 200 cases of flu-like illnesses likely to be H1N1, according to the Emory Web site.