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VIRUSES OTHER THAN FLU TAKING TOLL, TOO

Only a few documented cases of the flu have been recorded in Erie County -- but that doesn't mean that there aren't hundreds of people feeling just plain lousy.

Influenza is but one of the many viruses common to this time of year, Dr. Anthony J. Billittier, county health commissioner, said Thursday.

He said there is no system for reporting flu cases, though if it were widespread, the county would be aware of it.

Illness forced two schools to close earlier this week.

St. John the Baptist School in the Town of Tonawanda had only a half-day scheduled for pupils Tuesday and decided not to have them report after 112 out of an enrollment of 675 were out sick the previous day, said Principal Marilynn J. Camp.

Mount St. Joseph Academy in Buffalo also was closed Tuesday because of faculty illness, a spokeswoman said.

Both schools have reopened.

Billittier has firsthand knowledge of the kinds of viruses that have been going around: He was speaking on his car phone after leaving work early Thursday because he was not feeling well.

"I just feel lousy and weak, no specific thing," he said. "I'm going to drink fluids and take acetaminophen (not aspirin), just like we tell everyone to do."

Health officials say it is not too late to get a flu shot, which is especially recommended for those older than 50, health care workers and those with medical conditions such as heart and lung ailments.

Billittier acknowledged that he has yet to get a flu shot.

"Do as I say, not as I do," he said with a laugh. "I wanted to save my dose (of vaccine) for someone who needs it more. Besides, I'm not over 50."

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