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Influenza Strain Afflicts Harvard

Virus Causes Statewide Epidemic


A new strain of influenza, an outbreak of which has reached epidemic proportions statewide, has struck Harvard.

Dr. Warren E.C. Wacker, director of University Health Services (UHS) said yesterday, "A lot of people have been to UHS complaining of flue symptoms." This winter's outbreak, however, has not been as severe as some past major fluepidemics, he added, although he said he had no exact figures on the number of student victims.

The number of complaints has decreased since Christmas vacation, Wacker said, although experts predict the flue season in Massachusetts won't peak until February.

Body Count

There are only three or four patients currently in UHS's Stillman Infirmary complaining of flu symptoms, Sholem Postel, associate director of UHS, said yesterday.

The new strain of influenza, Bangkok A, is similar to the Hong Kong flu and shares essentially the same symptoms-- coughing, chills, body aches, headaches and a low fever. Because of its relation to the Hong Kong flu, most people have developed some immunity to the Bangkok A strain, Wacker said.

Feed a Fever

Treatment for the flu is by symptom and involves aspirin, fluids and bed rest.

Though flue vaccinations are available, the epidemic will probably be over before the antibodies take effect, William Kaden, director of health services at the Business School, said yesterday. For young, lowrisk patients, a mild case of the flue will build up stronger antibodies than the vaccine, he added.

General Hospital

Few Business School patients have required hospitalization, Kaden said, adding there is a trend away from hospitalization for this type of ailment. "Fewer people are being hospitalized because fewer are requesting it," he said. The attack rate at the Business School has been about 15 per cent.

The Bangkok flue reached epidemic proportions in Massachusetts by Thanksgiving, health officials said. An epidemic is determined by 10 per cent absenteeism in schools and industry. Absenteeism in Massachusetts has been around 15 per cent since the end of November.

This strain of flue and its major complication, pneumonia, caused 18 per cent of the deaths in Boston last week, Nicholas Fiumara, director of the Massachusetts Division of Communicable Diseases, said yesterday. Flu and pneumonia usually account for 4 or 5 per cent of deaths at this time of year.

The flue epidemic is not confined to the New England region. The Disease Control Center in Atlanta reports that all 121 cities it surveyed nationwide reported epidemic outbreaks of the Bangkok flu.

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