Two probable cases of swine flu at GW

Posted May 1, 9:21 p.m.

Two GW freshmen have the first probable cases of swine flu in the District, D.C. officials announced at a press conference Friday afternoon.

The two female students were moved to a private room earlier this week after testing positive for the “A” strain of the flu, University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said. Their test results have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for further testing, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said.

The two probable cases are the same students that The Hatchet reported about on Thursday, Schario said. The students were moved from Thurston Hall to City Hall by the University earlier this week to prevent the flu from spreading, but Schario declined to say where the students are currently housed.

The swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus, has been confirmed in more than 140 cases nationwide. Only one death has been reported in the U.S. and the symptoms exhibited in Americans have been less severe than those shown in cases in Mexico, according to the CDC.

Pierre Vigilance, director of D.C. Department of Health, said the two students were infected because one student traveled to “an area of concern” and then passed the virus to her roommate. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health declined to disclose to location, but said it was “one of the places swine flu has been reported.”

The University has taken “excellent measures” to prevent the virus from spreading, including isolating the two students, who are freshmen, Vigilance said.

“We don’t want people to be alarmed,” Vigilance said at the press conference. “The probable cases we have observed at GW are exhibiting the same mild symptoms as other U.S. citizens.”

University Provost and Vice President of Health Affairs John “Skip” Williams answered questions at the press conference, held at the Department of Health in Northeast D.C. around 5 p.m., about GW’s response to the virus.

“The first thing we did was start these students on an antiviral,” Williams said. “We then moved them to a private room to decrease the possibility of them spreading it to other students.”

The two students have been treated and neither had to be hospitalized, Fenty said.

Williams said it is likely that the swine flu will spread to more students.

“That would be a guess, however there probably will be more students as there will be other citizens in the United States,” he said, in response to a reporter’s question about the likelihood of the virus spreading.

A University news release stated that the two students are “recovering rapidly following treatment,” which included anti-flu medicine Relenza.

Final exams and the University Commencement ceremonies will take place as planned, Schario said.

“Exams will still be held,” Schario said. “If students are sick and they are not able to take their exams, they should talk to their faculty member, the teacher of the class, and make separate arrangements just as they would at the end of any other semester when illness prevented them from taking their courses.”

The University has set up a task force with health experts, facilities, communications and other emergency management officials as part of “an overall emergency plan,” Schario said.

“GW has emergency management plans in place,” University President Steven Knapp wrote in a statement to the GW community Wednesday. “In accordance with those plans, we have established a University-wide team to manage communications and coordinate any medical response or changes in scheduling or in the use of facilities that may become necessary if an outbreak occurs in our region or if restrictions on travel or on public events are imposed by public health authorities.”

Tim Gowa and Emily Cahn contributed to this report.

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