Gators get cautionary flu shots
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida Gators got a round of flu shots Sunday, the latest precaution for a team fighting to stave off a major problem.
Running back Jeff Demps, tight end Aaron Hernandez and defensive end Jermaine Cunningham were isolated last week because of flulike symptoms. Coach Urban Meyer said that receivers coach Billy Gonzales was sent home Monday because he was feeling ill and had a fever.
Although Meyer did not say any of the three had swine flu, he was concerned the virus could ravage his Gators.
"It is a panic level of proportion I've never seen before," Meyer said Sunday, a day after his team's 23-13 victory over Tennessee. "You hear about, I think, Wisconsin had 40 players. Ole Miss had 20 players. My wife, with her great insight, said, 'Do you realize the swine flu and everything is hitting the Florida campus last week.' My gosh."
Meyer said team doctors and trainers were doing everything they could to prevent an outbreak. They have hand sanitizer and prevention checklists all around the training facility, and are telling players to stay hydrated and monitor their weight regularly.
"We're trying the best we can, but it's real," Meyer said. "We go to the extremes. They get a separate dorm room for them. They get a separate hotel room for them. They put them right on whatever the flu stuff is. Our guys, our team doctors, they're on it as fast as you can get on it."
Flu shots were the latest course of action. They came about a week after one school official predicted that as many as 40 percent of students could catch swine flu.
"We knew it was hitting Gainesville," senior receiver David Nelson said Sunday. "Not just the football team, but throughout the campus and throughout the community. We knew it was a problem. Everywhere you turn, they're always telling you to wash your hand, take showers and all this different stuff.
"We knew there was something going on and there was a few players getting sick, but we didn't know the extent of how many people on our team were sick from it."
So far, only three.
Demps, Cunningham and Hernandez all played against Tennessee on Saturday, but none of them seemed up to par.
Demps, who had a 101-degree temperature, ran four times for 31 yards and a touchdown. Hernandez caught four passes for 26 yards. And Cunningham finished with one tackle.
"They were beat up pretty good," Meyer said.
Meyer said there could be more players isolated this week as the Gators prepare to play at Kentucky. Meyer was most concerned with Demps, the team's starting running back, because he's early in the course of symptoms. Hernandez and Cunningham were getting over theirs, Meyer said.
The Gators hope flu shots will help prevent it from spreading any further.
"They're doing a great job of monitoring everybody's weight and making sure everybody's hydrating and making sure they're taking care of themselves," Nelson said. "That's the main emphasis."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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