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Flu Warnings up at Olympics

February 15, 1998

NAGANO, Japan (AP) _ Flu warnings are up at the Olympics. The virus already has sickened about 200 people, and stopped at least four athletes from pursuing gold medals.

Germany’s Tanja Szewczenko withdrew Sunday from figure skating competition due to start Wednesday. She has been bed-ridden for five days with a high fever.

Flu also prevented Norwegian speedskater Adne Sondral, gold medalist in the 1,500 meters, from skating in Sunday’s 1,000-meter race.

Canadian pairs figure skaters Marie-Claude Savard-Gagnon and Luc Bradet both caught the flu, said Janet Ames, chief medical officer for the Canadian team.

Savard-Gagnon couldn’t finish her routine, and the 1997 Canadian champions ended up in 16th place in the pairs competition Tuesday. They have since recovered.

No one knows what kind of flu the athletes are catching. The results of a blood test to pinpoint the type won’t come back until the games are over.

Another problem is that isolating the sick athletes usually comes too late to prevent the flu from spreading. Symptoms include coughs, fever, aches and pains.

Ames said others on the Canadian team had flu-like symptoms, but none were serious.

``So we’re hopefully over the worst of it,″ she said. ``The athletes are dealing with it quite well. They seem to understand that this type of thing happens.″

Japanese team spokesman Tadahiro Goto said at least three members of the women’s ice hockey team got the flu.

No one on the U.S. team has been affected, but two coaches got the flu. ``Our athletes have been very healthy,″ team medical coordinator Sue Snouse said Sunday.

Even before the games started, the medical staff at the athletes’ village had warned team doctors that the flu was spreading and that everyone should take precautions such as gargling and keeping hands clean.

Through Thursday, the infirmary at the Olympic Village, where more than 3,000 athletes and officials reside, had received 750 visits.

Of those, 212 were for cold-like symptoms, and 61 people had a 99-degree Fahrenheit (37 Celsius) fever or worse, Dr. Kendo Kiyosawa said.

The infirmary, which also treats volunteers, is still handling about 70 flu cases a day.

Journalists have also caught the bug.

The infirmary at the main press center is dealing with 20 to 30 people a day with flu cases, said Dr. Yasuharu Ota. About 2,800 journalists are working out of the center.

A sign on the infirmary door warns everyone to dress warmly and take plenty of fluids.

In a mid-games report, the International Olympic Committee’s medical commission said those treated for upper respiratory problems, including athletes, media and other staff, totaled 1,482.

Update hourly