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Football players are not famous for their cleanliness -- the spread of bacterial infections is a noted locker room problem. And the idea of staying home with flu symptoms doesn't fit the sport's tough culture.
Scholarships are predicated on showing up for practice and performing well in games, and full participation is equated with "not letting the team down," Schaffner noted.
"There is some conflict with the public health message," Schaffner said.
But school officials around the country say they are following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and isolating sick students for 24 to 48 hours even after their symptoms clear up. A vaccine for the swine flu will not be available until next month.
Georgia head athletic trainer Ron Courson said he included swine flu prevention in his preseason talk with players, a seminar that usually hits on topics such as heat illness and injury prevention.
Every Georgia player and coach has received a fact sheet about the H1N1 virus so they can better recognize symptoms and get treated quickly. And each player got his own small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
The infection can be treated with drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza, but Courson said he has steered away from using them on football players because the vast majority are not in the high-risk groups -- small children and those with pre-existing medical conditions -- for whom swine flu can lead to more serious illness, even death.
Rest, drinking fluids and maybe some Tylenol or ibuprofen are what Courson would order for a sick student-athlete.
Coaches, meanwhile, are just hoping that an All-American won't fall ill for the big game.
"That's all half-luck," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said, "and we just hope that if we do get a case or two that it will be isolated -- and at this point, knock on wood, we're among the fortunate ones that haven't gone through it -- and hope that it doesn't happen at the worst time with the wrong players."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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