The word flu is being heard around this area once again as a number of people seem to have been struck by a virus that carries the following symptoms: high fever and general weakness, in most cases stomach upset and diarrhea, in others a sore throat and runny nose.

But in all cases, according to doctors here and at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, the virus is not connected with influenza.

"We've heard of people with viral infections in the area but we don't think there's any flu involved," said Dr. Mark Levy, head of the Department of Human Resources' communicable disease control branch. "As of now we know of no flu in Washington."

Levy said free flu shots were available to high-risk patients, aged and sick people and health workers, at two clinics - the Northwest Health Center at 1325 Upshur St. NW, and the Southwest Health Center at 850 Delaware Ave. SW.

"Anyone else we're telling to see a private physician," Levy said. "We're not recommending general flu shots this year like last year when we had the swine thing."

Dr. Gary Noble, chief of the respiratory virology branch of the Center for Disease Control, said that while some flu was expected this winter he expected it to be sporadic.

"We wouldn't be surprised to see it break out locally or regionally," he said. "We've gotten calls from different parts of the country indicating there are some respiratory viruses around. But this is normal right after school starts.

"There are two main virus groups," he explained. "The classic viruses are the rhino-viruses, which include runny noses, sore throats and high fevers.

"The other group are entero-viruses. These are more of a nuisance than anything else. One gets headaches, may have stomach problems and runs fever."

Noble said the rhino-viruses were more likely to lead to flu than the entero-viruses.

The virus in Washington appears, at least now, to fall more in the entero group. Dr. Morgan O'Donoghue, a local practitioner, said his office had seen few respiratory ailments this fall. "This thing appears to be striking in pockets, not diffusely," he said.

If flu does hit, it probably will be of the A strain type, Noble said, either the Texas strain that hit last winter or Victorian. Levy said DHR had vaccine for both the A strains and for B strain (Hong Kong flu).