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Flu Sickens More Than 6,300 in Colorado

December 4, 2003

DENVER (AP) _ The flu has sickened more than 6,300 people in Colorado, and the virus has claimed at least five lives so far, authorities said.

And for those it hasn’t yet sickened, it has prompted some lifestyle changes.

Three-year-old Alyvia Gonzales showed up at day care lugging a big can of spray disinfectant, a telling symbol of the state’s battle against this season’s flu outbreak.

Her mom, Richelle Gonzales, said Wednesday the Auraria Child Care Center asks parents for disinfectant, tissues and other supplies from time to time. So far, only one of the center’s 295 children has become seriously ill with flu.

``I think it’s one of those things,″ Gonzales said. ``You keep your kids healthy. If you’re going to get it, you’re going to get it.″

Colorado reported 6,306 cases Wednesday, an increase of 1,619 from Monday. Although it’s early in the season, Colorado has already had more cases than in the previous two flu seasons combined, 6,239. Colorado is one of 10 states with a widespread flu outbreak, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

All the Colorado flu deaths have been children. A 2-year-old and a 4-year-old from suburban Thornton died this week. A 15-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 21-month-old died last month.

State officials were trying to determine whether the death of another 2-year-old was caused by flu, and officials in Colorado Springs on Wednesday confirmed the death of a sixth-grader in Colorado Springs School District 11.

Superintendent Norm Ridder announced the death of the child, whose name was not released, at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

Reports about the flu prompted Eddy Madere, a Colorado Springs mother, to call the county Health Department to set appointments to get her sons, ages 2, 11 and 13, vaccinated.

She wasn’t alone. Health department workers in El Paso County alone booked most of the 1,200 available slots by late Wednesday, and another 1,300 appointments were made available on Thursday.

Carole Healer got a flu shot for herself and her 2-year-old daughter Halle, mostly to protect her 4-month-old daughter Gwen. Another precaution, she said, is ``a lot of hand washing.″

Health experts warned parents to be extra cautious, especially if children have a high fever that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications, have difficulty breathing or breath fast and hard, or can’t drink or keep fluids down.

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Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/

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