The bug has taken priority over the books in many Utah schools.

Influenza B is so severe and widespread that several schools are reporting up to one-third of their student body home sick."Some schools have even considered closing because of the large number of children ill," said state epidemiologist Craig Nichols.

But school closures won't control the outbreak that hits Utah each year.

According to Nichols, the only big difference with this year's major outbreak is that it was late in coming. It generally sends chills, aches and pains through Utahns' bodies earlier in January.

Most of this year's cases affected adults first. Very few children seemed to be bitten by the bug until they returned to school after the Christmas holidays. But then the bite was big.

"Influenza is the only disease that when it strikes a school can double the absenteeism in a short period of time," Nichols said.

So what are parents to do?

First, forget rushing to the doctor for flu shots and prescription drugs that are helpful in treating Influenza A.

"It's best if the vaccine is given four weeks before outbreaks occur, but it can still be given up until the time the disease is really widespread in the community," Nichols said.

But now, it's too late.

"Most often influenza simply requires bed rest and medications to control fever and body aches," Nichols said. "Parents should remember that children should not receive any aspirin or aspirin-containing products due to the increased risk of Reye's Syndrome."

Grin and bear it is the advice physicians are giving to people with the bug.

Nichols said flu victims will experience chills, fevers and muscle aches. Usually they will become so fatigued that they will immediately go right to bed. They likely won't feel good for several days. Some feel bad for up to a week.

Pneumonia, Nichols said, is a common complication of influenza - particularly in the elderly and chronically ill. High risk individuals should avoid large gatherings of people during the outbreak to decrease their risk of being exposed to the virus.


If the bug bites:

- Get plenty of bed rest and drink lots of fluids.

- Take over-the-counter medication to control fever and body aches.

- Do not give children aspirin or products that contain aspirin. They could cause Reye's Syndrome.

- Do not rush to the doctor for flu shots.

- Prescription drugs, helpful in treating Influenza A, are not effective in treating Influenza B.

- High-risk individuals should avoid large gatherings. Pneumonia is a common complication.

- If chest pains or breathing difficulties develop, consult a physician.