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SOU's flu cases dip this week

The number of students reporting H1N1 virus symptoms at Southern Oregon University has leveled out after tripling two weeks ago, a health official said Monday.

"We had a bit of a peak, but now our numbers seem to be leveling out," said Diane Potratz, director of the campus Student Health and Wellness Center.

About 150 students have received the nasal spray H1N1 vaccine, called FluMist, and the school has 50 doses left, she said. Only healthy students younger than 25 may receive the nasal spray vaccine.

The university expects to receive injectable H1N1 vaccine doses, which will be administered primarily to students with underlying medical conditions, in the coming weeks, although a date has not yet been announced, Potratz said.

There have been no concentrated outbreaks of the virus, also known as swine flu, in the dorms or elsewhere at the school, she said.

"We're in communication with housing and we still have not had any kind of outbreak or cluster reported to us, so we're still doing pretty good," she said.

Potratz said she couldn't provide figures on how many students have reported flu symptoms because, unlike some universities, SOU hasn't been designated an H1N1 surveillance site, and so flu cases aren't being closely tracked.

The health center doctor, Laura Robin, said the university would not release information about the number of flu patients the health center has seen, because the figures would not accurately reflect the scope of the virus on campus, since many students never visit the health center.

President Barack Obama declared the H1N1 virus a national emergency on Friday, freeing up resources to help hospitals and local governments cope with potential increases in patients.

Josephine County commissioners also declared a county state of emergency Friday, while Jackson County public health officials said they will ask the Board of Commissioners to seek a state emergency declaration at its regular meeting Wednesday.

The declarations should help the counties get additional resources, such as more vaccine doses, if the numbers of flu patients surges.

It's unclear what effect the emergency declarations could have on the university, which is working with county health officials to coordinate its response to the virus, Potratz said.

Although the number of flu cases appears to have declined this week, university health officials don't think the worst is over, Potratz said.

"We've been busy, but we haven't even entered the traditional seasonal cold and flu season," she said.

She expects the health center will still be seeing H1N1 cases in January, especially because many students will return to campus then after having traveled during their winter break.

"I don't have any reason to believe we're not still going to be seeing it then," she said.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.