Schools have plan if swine flu hits

Published 11:59 pm Monday, April 27, 2009

Andalusia school officials hope the swine flu outbreak does not reach Covington County, but they have a plan ready, just in case.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that Mexico has seen more than 2,000 cases of the swine flu, also known as the influenza type-A virus, and cases have also been confirmed in six U.S. states. In most of the American cases, the disease is believed to have come from students recently returning from trips to Mexico — often prompting those schools to be closed.

Bob Harry, special programs director for the Andalusia City Schools, said the system is monitoring all information it receives from the state, concerning swine flu. No cases have currently been reported in Alabama.

“A couple of years ago, the avian flu was going around and was a big concern,” Harry said. “At that time — with guidance from the state department of education — we developed a pandemic preparedness plan in the event that something like that took place. Obviously we’re hoping that it stays away from here, but we do have a plan.

“It’s one of these things where we prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

According to a story by the Associated Press, 12 students in a New York Catholic high school reportedly contracted the virus on a recent trip to Cancun — the school has been closed temporarily. Other schools closed based on the possibility of swine flu infection include St. Mel’s Catholic School in Sacramento, Calif., and 14 schools in a San Antonio, Texas, school district.

Harry said that school closure would be a possibility in the ACS pandemic plan, but not until all other responses have been utilized.

“There are several levels that we have to go through first,” he said. “The first level might be something as simple as putting out information about washing hands and that sort of thing, and then the final level would be actually closing the school. We’ve got our plan written out and everyone knows what their responsibility would be — the superintendents, the principals, the teachers would all play a part. Right now, we’re just following whatever directives come from the state officers.

“We haven’t heard too much about it yet, but it’s still possible that something may come across the desk (today), or late afternoon. We’ve just got to be ready.”

According to a press release from the Alabama Department of Public Health, swine influenza cannot be transmitted from eating pork or pork products. The symptoms of swine flu include a fever of more than 100 degrees, sore throat, body aches, chills and fatigue.

State health officer Dr. Donald Williamson said the ADPH feels it is “likely” the swine flu will eventually make its way to Alabama.

“It is likely swine flu cases will occur in Alabama, since there are already cases in various states and they do not appear to be linked to each other,” he said. “Persons should take steps to reduce their chances of contracting influenza.”

The Associated Press reported yesterday that the ADPH received several possible samples of the swine flu Monday. Most of the samples came from Baldwin and Pike counties, and it is unknown how soon results will be available.

For more information on swine flu, visit the ADPH at, or the Centers for Disease Control at