Three swine flu cases confirmed

Three GW students have tested positive for the H1N1 influenza – better known as the swine flu, the University announced in a statement Saturday morning.

The positive tests represent no new cases of the virus at GW, but are instead confirmations of three of the five probable cases that were previously announced.

University spokeswoman Tracy Schario declined to comment further on the number of flu swabs that were sent to the D.C. Department of Health for testing, but the University’s statement Saturday said all five students at GW with probable and confirmed cases of the swine flu have fully recovered and are no longer contagious.

The two remaining GW students who had probable cases of the swine flu have not yet been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta – the only lab facility in the country that can identify the H1N1 strain of the flu.

Dena Iverson, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Health, said a majority of the probable cases have been confirmed positive for H1N1 virus nationally. The Department of Health determines a probable case through a process of elimination testing system, Iverson explained.

“H1N1 is a new strain, so we don’t have it in the system,” Iverson said. “If we recognize it, it’s a flu that we already have on file and isn’t H1N1.”

GW students comprise three of the four confirmed swine flu cases in the District. More than 2,500 cases of the swine flu have been confirmed in 43 states, according to the CDC. Only three people infected have died, however, and the virus is “comparable in severity to seasonal influenza,” according to the CDC’s Web site.

All five students with probable cases of the swine flu were moved from their residence halls to private rooms on campus to prevent the spread of the illness. At least two of the students with probable cases of swine flu were moved from Thurston Hall to City Hall, but Schario declined to comment on where the other three students were originally living and where they were relocated.

“GW acted immediately following initial influenza diagnosis, following our procedure of moving the students to private rooms to limit exposure to other students, informing those in close personal contact and providing them with information about symptoms, treatment and prevention,” the University’s statement on Saturday said.

In order to prevent more cases of the virus, the University said hand sanitizers were placed in residence hall lobbies and cleaning efforts were increased in high-traffic areas like libraries and dining spaces.

Iverson added, though, that washing hands with soap and water is more effective than using hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of disease.

“Hand sanitizers are a good option for hand hygiene when soap and water are not available for hand washing but they should not completely replace washing with soap and water,” she said.

Other universities nationwide with reported cases of the swine flu have taken more extreme measures to prevent the swine flu from spreading.

Graduates at the University of Michigan will not receive handshakes at their commencement ceremony as a precaution. Other Universities like Loyola University in Chicago – where one student was diagnosed with the swine flu – will hand out hand sanitizer during their commencement ceremonies.

Commencement ceremonies at GW will go on as planned.

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