Swine flu affects 800+ students this time 10 years ago

Matthew Bailey

As the end of 2019, and by extension the 2010s, draws nearer, it’s natural to think about the course of this decade, as well as what life was like 10 years ago. It was the tail end of the decade that saw 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War and the war in Afghanistan.

To say that 2009 was an eventful yet turbulent year is no exaggeration, and it was a crucial year in the grand scheme of world events in the 2000s. Barack Obama was inaugurated as the first Black president in U.S. history, the United States and the world were in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson, passed away.

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On a smaller scale, Colorado State University and the Fort Collins community had a number of their own notable events.

With a score of 23-17, the Rams won the Rocky Mountain Showdown, which was given its 10-year extension that year. The Rams followed that victory with a 16-17 Border War loss, finishing their season with a lackluster 3-9 record, setting them dead last in the Mountain West.

The CSU Police Department welcomed its first female chief of police, Wendy Rich-Goldschmidt, in August; RamRide recorded its 100,000th ride; 84,000 pounds of food circled The Oval during Cans Around The Oval; and the “balloon boy” hoax out of Fort Collins was making international headlines in October.

But one international pandemic made its way to CSU during the 2009 fall semester, and The Rocky Mountain Collegian was there to cover it.

Aug. 26

CSU reported “probable cases” of Influenza A, otherwise known as H1N1 or the swine flu, Aug. 26, 2009. It was reported that one student was swabbed for H1N1 and that the results would come back in a week, and another student living off campus tested positive for H1N1.

What the Aug. 26 article did predict was that the virus would make its way to CSU, and this very much became a reality within less than two weeks of the article’s release.

Sept. 10

By Sept. 10, 2009, at least 60 students and faculty had reportedly experienced H1N1 symptoms. This amount of cases was not enough to shut the University down, and Jane Higgins, a physician from the CSU Health Network, urged students to isolate themselves if they felt sick. She also recommended students wear face masks.

But an on-campus student said in the article that self-isolation would be impossible due to the continuous close proximity between students in classes and residence halls.

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The amount of reported H1N1 cases on campus would only increase over the next few weeks.

Sept. 17

The Collegian reported that there were 400 reports of H1N1 at CSU in an article published Sept. 17, 2009. According to the article, 45 cases of H1N1 were verified by the Health Center on Sept. 16, 2009 alone, and Hartshorn Health Center recorded 500 visits that same day.

Similarly, the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley reported “a few” cases of H1N1, and the University of Colorado Boulder reported 370 H1N1 cases since Aug. 1, 2009.

Though the reported cases were being treated as H1N1, according to the article, no seasonal influenza strains were yet active by the time people started getting sick. The University urged students not to attend classes or even go to the Health Center. Instead, the University advised students to report symptoms online to prevent spreading the virus.

But the virus would spread even more.

Sept. 28

More than 800 students reported H1N1 symptoms between Sept. 4 and Sept. 28, 2009, according to a Collegian article. That total included students who had already recovered, but by Sept. 24, 2009, 323 students self-reported as ill.

A breakdown of H1N1-related statistics showed that the Health Network requested 24,000 vaccination doses from the Center for Disease Control, more than 30 CSU employees reported flu-like symptoms and 12 CSU athletes visited Hartshorn Health Center with flu-like symptoms.

Nov. 13

The Collegian reported Nov. 13, 2009 that 700 H1N1 vaccines would be distributed to people in “high-risk categories” in the Lory Student Center North Ballroom the following day.

“High-risk categories” included pregnant women, parents, caregivers of children younger than 6 months old, children of students or faculty between the ages of 6 months to 4 years old, medical care providers and anyone between the ages of 5 and 64 years old with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or immunodeficiencies.

Hartshorn vaccinated 150 “high-risk” people in weeks prior but was unable to vaccinate the entire “high-risk” population due to the slow distribution of vaccines to caregivers from manufacturers.

The Nov. 13, 2009 article was the last cover article about H1N1 published by The Collegian. No deaths were reported in any of the articles from The Collegian.

Ultimately, approximately 60.8 million cases of H1N1, 274,304 H1N1-related hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths from H1N1 occurred in the United States between April 12, 2009 and April 10, 2010, according to the CDC.

Matt Bailey can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @MattBailey760.