Swine flu has begun to spread through American universities where more than 1,600 cases of A(H1N1) infections were recorded in the first week of classes, a health group said Thursday.
Some 1,640 new cases were reported at 165 universities across the country that participate in surveillance conducted by the American College Health Association.
There has been only one hospitalization and no fatalities attributed to the virus among the more than two million students who attend the schools, according to ACHA. There are more than 18 million college and university students nationwide.
But with more than 550 deaths attributed to swine flu across the United States since the virus emerged in April, and with 40 percent of global A(H1N1) fatalities being among young adults in good health, education authorities are trying to mitigate what ACHA has described as the "significant risk" of swine flu's spread in universities.
"It is a lot of cases and it's actually only one week," ACHA president James Turner said, referring to the 1,640 new infections.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we saw many more cases arrive on campuses and we see the outbreak accelerate," he told AFP.
Despite the concerns, Turner said he has spoken with several colleagues at universities across the country and that they report "a very mild disease that for the most part is not leaving students seriously ill.
"They feel miserable for three or four days but they don't seem to be getting complications, or pneumonia," he said.
Many universities are taking no chances, however, and there have been several reports of sick students confining themselves to their dorm rooms and student bodies being made aware of the dangers of swine flu.
"The concern from a public health standpoint is not so much the impact of the disease on otherwise healthy students, but the impact on those who are at risk of complication - students with asthma, diabetes and heart disease."
ACHA says the state of Washington in the US northwest has the highest rate of infection at the reporting schools, with 124.3 cases per 10,000 students, followed by southern states Georgia (80.9) and Mississippi (43.2) and the central state of Kansas (31.3).