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This item originally appeared in the Dec. 11, 2003, issue of The Tech Talk.

By JULIE MILLER

Staff Writer

While many students spent their Thanksgiving break skiing on the slopes or lounging by the fireplace with family, Carolyn Peoples, a graduate student of English, stayed in her bed with the flu.

National health officials have warned that this year's flu season is earlier and more severe than normal. Five Colorado children have died from the virus, and media are calling national attention to the severity of the epidemic.

Officials have blamed a virulent strain of the virus called Fujian A for the outbreak.

Peoples said during her last day of fall quarter, she complained of a 102-degree temperature, chills, headache, sore throat, cough, congestion and aches.

"It was horrible," Peoples said. "I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."

Peoples' doctor confirmed it was influenza, prescribed Tamiflu and told her to take it easy.

Peoples' fever broke two days later and she was on her way to recovery.

"I'm much better," she said, "But I still have congestion and cough."

Paige Pickett, a registered nurse at the University Health Center, said there are ways to prevent catching the virus.

"We've given 250 shots here, and they gave about 500 out at the Wellness Fair," Pickett said. "So I'm hoping a lot of students are vaccinated."

The Health Center had only eight shots left as of Dec. 4 and Pickett predicted all of the shots would be gone by the end of the week.

According to a pamphlet distributed by the Health Center, vaccines have a 70 percent rate in preventing infection, which prevents the virus from spreading even more from person to person.

"The best prevention is good hand washing," Pickett said. "If your roommate has the flu, either stay away or Lysol the door knobs and faucets."

The last two weeks of fall quarter, Pickett said the Health Center saw about 350 students each week. Some had flu-like symptoms and were given a voucher for a local doctor.

"Within 48 hours of the first symptoms, you can be injected with a shot that will lesson the symptoms," Pickett said.

Because of the recent outbreak, however, Pickett said it is likely there will be a nationwide shortage of flu vaccines soon.

Virginia Love, laboratory manager for the Green Clinic, located at 1200 S. Farmerville St., said she noticed the flu has crept up and already begun affecting the Ruston community.

"We had 195 positive cases at the end of October," she said.

The flu season generally peaks in January and ends in March. Symptoms are more severe than with a common cold and last for about 10 days. Because it is a virus, antibiotics will not cure the flu.

The Center for Disease Control recommends students drink plenty of liquids and avoiding the use of alcohol and tobacco if symptoms occur.

For more information, contact the Health Center, at 257-4866.


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