Colleges Prep for Swine Flu in Wake of Third Student Death

Hundreds of students are falling ill, but doctors say H1N1 fatalities are rare.

ByABC News
September 15, 2009, 9:26 AM

Sept. 15, 2009— -- 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.