Flu virus hammers Fort Lewis College

Flu season has started with a vengeance in Durango, hitting Fort Lewis College particularly hard. Since Monday, more than 200 students have come into the college's health center with the illness.

"We're too busy to count them up yet," said Health Center Director Dan Hoff. "We had 111 patients on Monday and 107 on Tuesday and the majority of them were the flu."

Hoff said that the flu has arrived at Fort Lewis about a month earlier than usual, but said the college is typically the first place that's hit because students transport the disease here from outside Durango. That issue is compounded by dormitory and classroom situations where the disease is more readily spread.

"We saw students mainly from one hall on Friday," Hoff said. "But now it seems like it has spread throughout the other dorms."

Based on past experience, Hoff said that the flu should be hitting downtown Durango within a week.

Dr. Ned Calonge, the state of Colorado's chief medical officer, stated that flu is here ahead of schedule. "Flu appears to have hit us early this year," Calonge said. "We have already begun to see areas with a lot of activity."

Typical symptoms of flu include fever, cough, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sore throat. People can decrease the chances of getting the contagious disease via frequent hand. Vaccination is also an option.

"Flu clinics have been set up throughout the state, and the vaccine is in ample supply this year, so we encourage everyone to get vaccinated now," Calonge said. "It's much easier to get a flu shot than to get the flu."

San Juan Basin Health Department, 281 Sawyer Drive in Bodo Park, offers public flu shot clinics every Monday through the end of November. For more information call 247-5702.

Fire crews quickly snuff diner fire

Quick response to a fire in the Durango Diner on Tuesday morning averted what could have become a major blaze on Main Avenue.

Dave Abercrombie of the Durango Fire and Rescue Authority said that firefighters responded to a page at 8:08 a.m. and arrived on the scene at 8:12 a.m. The diner had been evacuated, and the first units found light to medium smoke with no flames visible. Eventually they located the fire inside the wall behind the grill and extinguished it and then investigated the remainder of the building for flames but found none.

"It started near the grill but the specific cause is still under investigation," Abercrombie said. "I think they've ruled out any cooking processes or grease or anything like that."

Abercrombie said a quick call from the diner and quick response from firefighters averted what could have been a tragic situation.

"One of our key concerns in those buildings in that part of Main Avenue is the structural design," he said. "Had the fire gotten into the attic it could have gone into the adjacent attics. The fact that someone was there and recognized and saw the smoke, called it in, then we got there quickly and jumped on it, saved it from really becoming a serious fire."

Area tourism office asks to join city

The Durango Area Tourism Office has asked to become a city of Durango department.

The organization that markets Durango to tourists throughout the world said that inclusion within the city would ease cash flow problems.

Mary Hart, DATO director, said that the city requested her input on the issue but added that no decision has been made. She said the major advantage of linking the tourism office with the city would be financial.

"The majority of our expenditures take place during the beginning of the year, and the majority of our revenues roll in during the end of the year," she said. "The biggest benefit would be access to cash year round. It would be very helpful."

On Jan. 1 of this year, DATO became an entity independent of the Durango Area Chamber Resort Association. Hart said that's when the financial problems began since a shared budget allowed chamber dues to cover marketing expenses.

The department could be absorbed in January.

Hunters experience mixed results

Colorado's big-game season continues to be difficult as elk hunters struggle locally and throughout the state. Warm, dry weather has made for low success rates that carried over into the third season. However, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has high hopes for the fourth season, which began Nov. 8. Scott Wait, a terrestrial biologist in Durango, said recent weather patterns have produced snow at higher elevations and rain below 9,000 feet, which has spurred herds to migrate.

"This storm definitely got deer moving, and elk to a lesser degree," Wait said. "Deer hunting has continued to be very good, hunters are very happy with the quality of bucks and the quality of the hunt. Elk hunting has continued to be surprisingly slow. It's still not a good harvest."

A good fourth season harvest will not only make for happy hunters but enhance the health of the herd, he said.

Students combat political apathy

Citing growing political apathy at Durango High School, a group of students have formed a local chapter of Junior State of America. The national student-run, nonpartisan organization has a goal of increasing political awareness and involvement among students.

Co-president Luke Wheeler said that the group was formed after he and two of his friends attended Junior State of America programs at Stanford, Yale and Georgetown this summer. Currently the local chapter includes 10 students, and Wheeler said they hope to double that number by the end of the year. Wheeler said the group believes it is essential that high school teens become aware of and involved in local, state and national political.

"Political apathy is a problem with most kids our age," Wheeler said. "Politics is not a priority for most high schoolers."

Wheeler added that the recently formed group is looking for community support and that he can be contacted at 247-2131.

-compiled by Will Sands





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