Mass. Department of Public Health: Two ‘Probable’ Swine Flu Cases at MIT

Two MIT affiliates are considered to have had “probable” infections of swine flu, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health told MIT Medical on Friday.

The first, a student who lives off campus, has already recovered. The Tech reported on this case in Friday’s issue, but some details were conflated with details of the second case.

Whether the student’s infection was actually swine flu (influenza type A subtype H1N1) will not be known because samples were not taken.

The student visited MIT Medical on Thursday, April 23 with a respiratory illness and was not tested for influenza.

Massachusetts has labeled that student’s illness a “probable” swine flu case because he had recently returned from Mexico and because the Boston Public Health Commission found indirect connections between the student and some of those with “probable” swine flu infections at the Harvard Dental School, said Howard M. Heller, chief of internal medicine at MIT Medical.

The student was not hospitalized and has recovered.

Nine Harvard Dental School students have “possible” infections of swine flu, the Boston Public Health Commission told the Boston Globe on Friday. Harvard Dental School was closed on closed Friday and classes are cancelled through next Wednesday, the Globe reported. Dental school students and Harvard medical students will be barred from seeing patients until Wednesday.

A companion who traveled with the student became sick after the April 23 diagnosis, as did a friend of the companion. Neither are affiliated with MIT. The Massachusetts DPH considers all three of those cases “probable” H1N1 influenza, Medical said in a report on Friday.

Separately, on Wednesday, April 29, an MIT affiliate covered by the MIT health plan who is not a student or staff member was diagnosed with influenza A at MIT Medical. That person lives off campus and is a former spouse of an MIT employee, student MedLinks were told in an e-mail Friday night. The person’s only connection with MIT is that they receive medical care at MIT Medical.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health considers that person’s infection a “probable” swine flu case because the form of influenza A does not match the typical strain from the 2008–9 flu season. Additional tests are being performed to determine whether the infection is influenza subtype H1N1 and whether it is a particular version of H1N1 that infects pigs, Heller said.

That person was treated with the antiviral drug Tamiflu and is “doing very well,” Heller said.

The illness has proven relatively mild in the United States, with one death reported among 141 cases confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control on Friday morning.

In Massachusetts, of six cases confirmed by the Department of Public Health as of Friday, only one patient was hospitalized at the time of confirmation. That patient, a nine-year old, was “ready for discharge,” according to the department’s press release.