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FLU OUTBREAK REPORTED AMONG KIDS.

Byline: Troy Anderson and Sonia Giordani Staff Writers

After an unusually mild flu season, Los Angeles County health officials said Wednesday that they've seen a sharp increase in illnesses strongly suspected to be Influenza B, especially among schoolchildren.

The illness lasts about four days, with symptoms including moderate to high fever, headache, sore throat, body aches and fatigue. Respiratory symptoms such as cough and runny nose are being reported in about half of the schools surveyed.

``We are having an increased number of kids going home sick each day with a fever,'' said William Snow, principal at Noble Avenue Elementary School in North Hills. ``So they're not playing hooky because they're coming to school.''

Mary Mendoza, principal at San Fernando Elementary School, said the flu has been hitting the students hard for about the past six weeks.

``We have one day of the week when we have no nurse, and we had 12 students in the main office. And it wasn't just because they had a headache or the sniffles,'' Mendoza said.

Suzanne Rue, communicable disease resource nurse for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said one campus in the San Fernando Valley reported that half of one of its classes came down with the symptoms.

``The nurses have noticed an increase,'' Rue said. ``They've seen high fevers, up to 103 or 104 (degrees). What's unusual about this is it's so incredibly late - it's almost April.

When the nurses call and say we have this strange thing going on at my school and we ask them the symptoms, they are all the same.''

Influenza is spread mainly by airborne transmission or contact with oral secretions, said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, county director of public health.

``If you are sick, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands frequently, and stay home from work or school to avoid exposing others,'' he said.

Most people who get influenza will not need to see a doctor, officials said.

Prescription medicines are available that can prevent the disease, reduce symptoms and shorten the illness. However, for most people, getting rest, drinking plenty of fluids and taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen for aches is the best treatment.

``Parents should avoid giving children any medication with aspirin, as this increases their risk of developing Reye's syndrome, a potentially fatal liver disease,'' said Dr. David Dassey, deputy director of the county's Acute Communicable Disease Control Unit.

For people with possible complications such as pneumonia or asthma, see a doctor or call the Health Info Line at (800) 427-8700 to get referrals to low-cost medical clinics around the county.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 28, 2002
Words:433
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