ISU student from Marshalltown has probable case of H1N1 virus

AMES, Iowa -- An Iowa State University freshman from Marshalltown is being tested for Story County's first probable case of novel influenza A, or the H1N1 virus.

Results back today from the state hygienic laboratory confirmed that the virus is non-specified type A. The probable H1N1 case has been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further testing.

"Approximately 95 percent of the probable cases sent to the CDC have come back positive, so we fully expect this to result in a confirmed case of H1N1," said Eileen Mullan, director of Homeward/Story County Public Health. "We will manage H1N1 in the county as we do all cases of influenza -- emphasizing everyday health care precautions that prevent the spread of germs, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water."

There are now 11 probable cases and one confirmed case of H1N1 in Iowa, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. There are suspected, probable and confirmed cases of H1N1 at three dozen universities across the U.S. -- the greatest number of probable cases at the University of Delaware, Newark; and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Cambridge, Mass.

The 18-year-old Iowa State student tested positive for Influenza Type A during a visit to ISU's Thielen Student Health Center last Friday. She recuperated at home over the weekend; then returned to campus Monday, May 4. A follow-up appointment at the student health center late Monday afternoon determined that the student was still coughing and not ready to return to class. She was isolated in a private room on campus overnight, and will return home to Marshalltown today. She did not take final exams, and will make arrangements to complete those tests remotely.

It is not known how the ISU student may have contracted the virus. University officials were immediately cautious because the student had visited Marshalltown April 25-26, shortly before becoming ill. However, there is no known, direct connection between the ISU student and any of the probable H1N1 cases in Marshall County, Thielen Student Health Center Director Michelle Hendricks said.

Iowa State University is coordinating with the Story County Board of Health and Emergency Management Commission in the handling of this case.

The student has lived in Helser Hall on the ISU campus. Department of Residence Director Pete Englin reported that, as of May 5, she is officially checked out of the residence hall for the summer. The student's roommate and a study partner -- the only members of the ISU community with whom she had frequent and close contact -- are not exhibiting flu symptoms at this time.

Members of the university community, including the residents of Helser Hall, were notified of the possible case and subsequent testing on May 4. ISU's Department of Residence will hold a meeting for the 60 residents who live on the affected student's floor later today, reiterating best practices from the CDC to protect themselves against the flu.

ISU Dining has posted table tents and posters in all dining facilities, emphasizing handwashing and safe food handling practices. Self-service areas (pop machines, salad bars, etc.) are being sanitized frequently. ISU Dining Director Nancy Levandowski reports that patrons at each dining facility are collectively using at least a gallon of hand sanitizer a day.

Students are taking final exams at Iowa State this week, and all normal activities are being held as usual -- including commencement, which is scheduled for this weekend. Hand sanitizer will be provided at commencement.

Students have been advised not to attend final exams if they are ill with flu-like symptoms. It is each student's responsibility to contact his or her instructor immediately to make other arrangements. More information is available at:

Students, faculty and staff who feel ill or have questions about their health should call the Thielen Student Health Center at (515) 294-5801, Mary Greeley Medical Center at (515) 239-2011, or their preferred healthcare provider(s).

Watch the ISU homepage for updates.