The flu season, which normally hits in late January, has given Lawrence a sneak preview this week.
Local schools, including Kansas University, are reporting unusually high numbers of flu cases for this time of year. But school nurses are quick to add that Lawrence isn't experiencing an epidemic.
Dr. Charles Yockey, chief of staff at KU's Watkins Health Center, said 250 students have visited the center each day this week, about 50 higher than the daily average.
"The flu's been a huge problem," Yockey said today, adding that the first cases were seen last Friday.
Since then, Watkins physicians have seen several students who are complaining of headaches and body aches. He said temperatures of 102 have been common, as well as dry coughing and low white blood cell counts.
"We have definitely seen an outbreak," said Yockey.
YOCKEY SAID the virus going around now is not serious. However, he said it could be dangerous if it reaches elderly Douglas County residents.
Cindy Murray, school nurse at Lawrence High School, said "our numbers (of sick students) are definitely up."
"On an average day, we see 20 to 30 students," Murray said. "We've been seeing about 50 to 60 students a day this week, and we've been sending them home."
Murray said many students are complaining of sore throats and a dry cough. She recommends plenty of rest and fluids.
Donna Osness, coordinator of health services for the Lawrence school district, said the district is seeing "little bits and pieces of different things."
BUT OSNESS pointed out that Lawrence isn't experiencing "alarming numbers like Kansas City."
Osness encourages parents to be on the lookout for flu symptoms. If a child has a high temperature in the morning, he or she should stay home from school that day and should be monitored, Osness said.
Ten of Quail Run School's 500 students missed classes because of the flu today. Ten of 150 Riverside School students stayed home. And at Hillcrest, eight fourth-graders spent today at home while nursing the flu. Those figures are from Sarah Williams, a secretary at Riverside.
Kay Tsouhlarakis, director of the Haskell Health Center, which serves Haskell Indian Junior College students and Native Americans in northeast Kansas, said physicians there have seen a few flu cases. However, she said, the number hasn't been unusually high.
YOCKEY and Ann Ailor, a nurse with the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, said it's not too late to get flu shots. Yockey said it would have been best to get flu shots by Oct. 31, but he said it would still be worthwhile to get one this month. It takes about six to eight weeks to build protection after getting the shot, he said.
Ailor said 2,450 people received flu shots during October at the health department's flu shot sites, and 419 people have received the shot at the health department since the first of this month.