H1N1 [Swine Flu] at University of Alabama: First There Was News. Then There Was None.

What is happening on the Tuscaloosa campus of the University of Alabama?

Let’s review the week of August 18 to 25, 2009.

Tuesday night, August 18, 2009: University of Alabama sends out emails to campus community and parents that there are 21 suspected and 6 confirmed cases of H1N1 (swine flu) on the Tuscaloosa campus.

Wednesday, August 19, 5:20 pm. Birmingham News reports: “University of Alabama officials have confirmed at least 50 cases of influenza on campus, most of them likely the swine flu.”

Friday, August 21, 6:00 am: Tuscaloosa News online:

At least 54 people have tested positive for the flu this week, said John Maxwell, director of the Student Health Center at UA. That number has grown since Tuesday, when there were 21 known cases of flu, but it’s not certain whether the cases are the H1N1 swine flu strain.

And then there was no news.

Trying to find out what is going on 150 miles away at UA, I searched “flu Alabama,” “flu Tuscaloosa,” “H1N1 Alabama” and “H1N1 Tuscaloosa” on Google News:

Saturday, August 22:nothing new about UA and H1N1 in the media.

Sunday, August 23:nothing new about UA and H1N1 in the media.

Monday, August 24:nothing new about UA and H1N1 in the media.

What conclusion am I to draw? 

  1. First there were 6, then 21, then 54. And then no new cases of flu. Amazing! If that is the case, what is UA doing right? Send in WHO, send in the CDC, let them tell their success story. OR
  2. The highly contagious H1N1 flu has continued to spread rapidly and by now there are several hundred cases. But this isn’t newsworthy.

Two things I know for sure: 

  1. You can add one more to that figure of 54: my son was diagnosed Thursday night at 7:00.
  2. He had to go as far as Northport, a community about 5 miles from campus, to purchase a single course of Tamiflu for $120 since the pharmacies closer to campus were sold out.

Several things I’m thankful for: He 

  1. isn’t a freshman or a transfer student who knows no one on campus
  2. knows where Student Health is
  3. had a way to get to a pharmacy
  4. had $120 in his bank account.

But what if. . . what if he didn’t know anyone? The idea of “flu buddies” who will look out for one another is very sweet but more than a tad naïve: how many people are going to put themselves at risk to help a stranger? How are these freshmen and transfers getting food, let alone to the doctor and pharmacy?

And what of those who can’t afford the Tamiflu?

One more thing I know for sure:

In 12 days, some 90,000 people will be crowding into Bryant stadium for the Alabama-Virginia Tech game. They will be shouting and the water vapor-borne viral contagions will be flying. They’ll be holding onto handrails climbing to their seats. They’ll be eating with their hands. A lot of money will be involved.

Could there just maybe, just possibly, be a connection between this scenario and the blackout of updates on H1N1 on the UA campus?