Flu virus goes to school

by Gail Marsh

    The halls at Gore Middle School were a little quieter than usual this week as the flu continued to wreak havoc on attendance in several Harrison County schools.
    According to Ed Propst, Gore Middle School's principal, 78 of the school's 352 students, about 22 percent of the student body, were absent on Friday. The school averages about 15 absences on a normal day.
    "We're hoping the weekend helps our students and teachers get on the mend. This is one of the worst flu seasons that I can remember," Propst said.
    Bridgeport Middle School has also been hard hit in the last week, with more than 70 children absent daily from the 640-student school. Principal Frank Devono said the number of staff members out with the flu was also up.
    "Several of our staff members are out and we've had trouble getting enough substitutes who were well and able to fill in for them. We had at least two classes Friday that were not covered by subs, so we had to make some arrangements for them," Devono said.
    Dr. Paul Gordon of the Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department said a random sampling of doctors' offices in the area found reported flu cases at 977 for the week, compared to 300 cases last week. Two weeks ago there were 500 cases reported.
    "The flu season is much worse this year, not just here but all over the country. And it looks as though it may be a while before things ease up," Gordon said.
    Flu symptoms include body aches, fever, sore throats, nasal congestion, headaches, vomiting and a cough. Though most symptoms clear up within three to five days, some symptoms may linger, Gordon said.
    "People begin to feel better once their fever breaks, but a cough may persist for some time," Gordon said.
Bed rest, aspirin and fluids may help to ease symptoms, but antibiotics don't work on the flu because it's viral, Gordon said.     If the flu is complicated by a throat infection, that may require antibiotics, but it won't help the initial disease, he said. The best thing to do during flu season is to stay home if you are sick and to remain at home until you are feeling better, Gordon said.
    "It takes 3-7 days after exposure before you get sick, so it's hard to avoid. The best thing you can do is stay home to make sure you get well before going out again. This flu will just have to run its course," he said.
    The flu has been causing problems since early February in the school system. Liberty High School was hardest hit during the first two weeks of the month according to David Book, the principal there.
    More than 190 students a day were absent, out of a total of 722 students. At least a dozen teachers were also absent most days during the two-week period, Book said.
    "We hovered around 23-25 percent absent during that time, but things are pretty well back to normal. We're running less than 10 percent of our students absent during this week, so we're hoping we've seen the worst of it," Book said.

Homemade explosive detonated downtown

by James Fisher

    Less than 1 1/2 hours after a homemade explosive tore apart a concrete pillar and rained debris across Washington Avenue behind CNG Transmission Corp., Clarksburg police officers arrested a 16-year-old boy in connection with the incident.
    Police said the boy, who was from the same neighborhood, was visiting friends about 4 p.m. Friday at 419 Washington Ave. when he decided to set off the miniature bomb in front of the house. The explosion shattered the top two feet of the pillar and sent pieces of cardboard, wax and concrete flying across the road in a 50-foot radius. No one was injured in the incident.
    Police confiscated gunpowder from a vehicle belonging to the boy's family Friday. The boy allegedly hid the gunpowder in the vehicle. Police also searched the boy's residence Friday night. It was not immediately clear whether any additional explosives were found.
    Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were called to the scene, Mazza said. The boy probably won't face federal charges, he said.
    The boy was charged with setting off a homemade explosive, said Chief Raymond Mazza, and was taken before a magistrate. Other charges may be pending against the boy, Mazza said.
    Officers asked the magistrate to schedule a detention hearing for the boy, but whether one was set was not immediately available.
    Although the explosion happened behind CNG, Mazza said there was no indication it was directed toward the company or any employees. Still, CNG employees were affected as Clarksburg officers closed a portion of Washington Avenue for about three hours Friday night.
    At least nine employees of CNG were parked in the rear lot of the company and were not allowed to  leave until the investigation was completed.
    Mazza credited the residents of the neighborhood and investigators with the quick apprehension of the suspect.


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