Every University of Wisconsin student tested for swine flu returned positive results last week, leading University Health Services to use more selective testing.
Defining flu-like symptoms as a fever more than 100 degrees accompanied by either a sore throat or a cough, epidemiologist for UHS Craig Roberts said before last week, only 3 percent of UHS visits were for such symptoms.
Over the course of last week, however, the percentage of UHS contacts relating to the flu jumped to 15 percent.
“We had contacts from over 200 students experiencing flu-like symptoms. Normally this time of year we would expect no students with those symptoms,” said Sarah Van Orman, executive director for UHS.
Van Orman added she expects this represents a mere fraction of those experiencing such symptoms on campus.
UHS tested 70 students for swine flu last week, 90 percent of which tested positive for regular seasonal flu.
Of that 90 percent, 20 students were sub-typed and tested for the H1N1 virus. Of those 20 tests, 100 percent came back positive for swine flu, according to Van Orman.
“At this point, on this campus, we would make the assumption that anyone with an influenza-like illness would have swine flu,” Roberts said.
He added “outbreak” would be a reasonable term to describe the current situation at the university, though it is part of a larger pandemic, which usually means it comes in waves.
Although UHS is still waiting on more test results from last week, due to these overwhelmingly high numbers, the imperfect nature of the test, its high cost and the limited possibilities for treatment, UHS officials agreed to discontinue testing for the virus.
“[UHS] needs to be good stewards of [their] resources,” Van Orman said.
Roberts said students should not expect to be tested because they will almost certainly receive a clinical diagnosis based on their symptoms.
“It will be assumed they have swine flu,” Roberts said.
Though no one has been hospitalized so far, UHS will offer tests to those who are hospitalized along with anyone experiencing more severe illness or possessing a pre-existing health condition, according to UHS officials.
Van Orman said this is not inconsistent with what was expected, but it is still very important students take the isolation requests seriously when they come down with flu-like symptoms to prevent epidemic levels that could potentially halt daily operations at the university.
There are currently no plans to close the university, according to Van Orman, but she said there are circumstances in which such actions would be conceivable, though she does not anticipate them coming to fruition.
Influenza is is an easily identifiable illness, according to Van Orman, who added the onset is sudden and drastic.
“It really is like being hit by a truck,” Van Orman said. “You go from feeling well to being quite sick in a couple hours.”
UHS is participating in a project with the American College Health Association, which is currently reporting that more than half of campuses from around the nation have significant H1N1 cases.