Swine flu forces Rams to cancel practice

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams canceled practice Thursday due to an undisclosed number of swine flu cases on the team.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo would not say how many players had the illness but said five or six players had flulike symptoms, and some had had those symptoms for the last few weeks. He anticipated the Rams would return to practice on Friday.

"It's really more of a precaution than anything," Spagnuolo said. "We're checking everybody, we're just being careful."

Players were seen driving away from Rams Park shortly before noon after consulting with medical staff. Team spokesman Ted Crews said players received medication before leaving.

"If there was one (player), we'd have to be careful," Spagnuolo said. "I think it was the right thing to do."

Two players, quarterback Kyle Boller and center Jason Brown, missed practice Wednesday due to undisclosed illnesses. Spagnuolo said Brown was also ill on Monday, but had been expected to return to practice Thursday before the team decided to send players home.

Spagnuolo said the Rams became aware of the situation about 8:30 or 9 a.m., then held a team meeting after deciding on a course of action.

"There was no panic here," Spagnuolo said. "We took our time."

The Rams (1-12) host the Houston Texans (6-7) this Sunday.

In early October, Texans rookie tight end Anthony Hill was hospitalized with swine flu in the first confirmed case in an NFL player this season. Other players around the league were also sidelined with flulike symptoms.

The nation's supply of swine flu vaccine is expected to reach 100 million doses this week, clearing the way for everyone to be protected, not just those considered at high risk. The 2009 H1N1 strain sickens younger people more frequently than the over-65 population who are seasonal flu's main victims.

Through mid-November, about one in six Americans have caught the new H1N1 flu, and about 10,000 have died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The new swine flu seems no more deadly than regular winter flu, which every year kills 36,000 Americans and hospitalizes 200,000.

Earlier this year, the NHL's Calgary Flames were criticized when players and their families received the swine flu vaccine while thousands of other people waited in lines that stretched for hours. Two Alberta Health Services employees were later fired.

British Columbia's provincial health officer also said last month that Vancouver Canucks also players jumped the line when they received vaccinations.

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