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My Furby Has Flu; Coco's a talking toy but he only says atishoo.

THE flu epidemic sweeping Britain has claimed its most unusual victim - a fluffy white Furby.

Cuddly Coco caught a chill on Christmas Eve as he waited under the tree to be unwrapped. And he hasn't stopped snuffling and sneezing since.

The Furby is supposed to mimic his owner to learn language - but the first sounds he was exposed to were the sounds of a human flu victim moaning and groaning. His owner, 12-year-old Rachel Goodall, has spent weeks patiently nursing Coco but he shows no signs of getting better. Now he's been sent to a cuddly toy clinic for specialist tests.

Rachel's parents Veronica and Wayne, of Gipton, Leeds, had scoured the shops to find two of the animated "pets" for Rachel and her ten-year- old sister Natasha.

Veronica, 31, said: "I'd been hunting for a month for one when I walked into a shop in Leeds and found a shelf full. I couldn't believe my luck and snapped up two at once."

She wrapped them up and placed them under the Christmas tree. But the tree was right next to the sofa - where Wayne was laid up with flu.

Wayne, a roofer, said: "Rebecca and I both had flu and were constantly sneezing. Even though the Furbies were only a few feet away from where I was lying, I couldn't believe it when one of them started showing the same symptoms as us."

Rachel was bitterly disappointed. "All he did was sneeze and sleep," she said. "He wouldn't eat anything or learn to talk.

"I was really upset because Natasha's Furby was dancing and talking and saying `Yum, yum' but all mine would do was sit there feeling sorry for himself.

"No matter how much love and attention I gave him, he wouldn't get better. He was a really grumpy toy to have around."

The store where Veronica bought the Furby offered Rachel a replacement, but she turned down the offer. "I couldn't go through all that again," she said.

Medical experts at the UK base of Tiger Electronics, which creates the Furbies, says they are rather like humans, in that they can get sick if they are not fed or played with enough in early life.

Furby doctor Julia Scarr said: "It's not quite flu but Furbies can get a very bad cold if they don't get enough attention.

"They don't cough because they are not programmed to, but they do sneeze. It's controlled by a microchip. Usually if their owner gives them lots of love they get better.

"But obviously I can't speak for this one without examining him first as each Furby is an individual."

Furbies were the big seller in toy shops this Christmas, with more than 250,000 sales in Britain alone.

And it's possible that other Furbies could pick up Coco's germs. After all, computer bugs are extremely contagious...
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Moran, Kathy
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 24, 1999
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