Thursday, November 20, 2003
The flu struck Mary Bramer on Sunday and her daughter a day later.
By Thursday afternoon, more than one-third of the students and half the faculty at the North Routt Community Charter School had come down with influenza or symptoms of the virus, prompting the school's closure for at least a day.
The early influenza outbreak isn't isolated to the Clark area; Colorado and Texas are experiencing the strongest outbreaks in the nation.
Susan Bowler, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association's public health nurse manager for Routt and Moffat counties, said more people are reporting cases of the flu each day.
"The word's gotten out," Bowler said. "The flu is here, and it's pretty bad."
Exact numbers of flu-ridden residents are nearly impossible to track because most people with flulike symptoms stay home rather than go to the doctor for a diagnosis, Bowler said. But this year's outbreak arrived earlier than most years and could be stronger in Routt County because of the number of tourists who flock to the area during the winter, bringing with them the easily communicable virus.
Washing hands, eating fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of fluids, getting sufficient sleep and staying away from crowded areas are some of the best ways to prevent being stricken by the upper respiratory infection, Bowler said. A flu shot also is a strong defense against the illness.
"Once you have (the flu), there's not a whole lot you can do," Bowler said. "Put (yourself) in a dark room and fight it off."
Antiviral drugs can help reduce some of the flu's symptoms if a visit to the doctor occurs within 36 hours of the onset of the virus, Bowler said. But the high fevers, chills, cough and aches associated with the flu are often hard to rid once they strike.
Even though flu season has arrived, a flu shot now can prevent infection, she said. But if you or your child become sick, Bowler makes this plea:
"Keep them home. Please, keep them home."
The state Department of Public Health and Environment has established a toll-free flu hotline that is staffed daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Trained information specialists are available to provide information in English and Spanish on flu symptoms, general information about the infection and where to obtain flu shots. The hot-line number is 1-877-462-2911.
Symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting are uncommon with the flu except in very young children, state health officials said in a release. They also emphasized there is no such thing as the stomach flu, and upset stomachs typically are not an indication of the flu.
The flu kills about 36,000 people each year across the nation.
-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234
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