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Schools keeping eye on swine flu

Officials in the Andalusia City School System have implemented phase one of a four-phase pandemic plan in response to the “swine flu” outbreak.

While no cases have been reported locally, school officials are working to prevent the spread of the illness.

As of Friday, there were at least three reported cases of probable swine flu in the state — two at a Madison County elementary school and another in Montgomery. A fourth probable case was identified in Madison County on Friday.

Bob Harry, transportation coordinator, said staff members were trained at the beginning of the school year on infectious disease prevention — training that is being put to good use in light of the recent outbreaks.

“Our system nurse is in communication with the state health department and is monitoring the situation,” Harry said. “We’ve begun implementing phase one, or ‘green phase’ for a novel virus alert, which means we’re doing lots of hand washing with soap and water, disinfecting areas. Our staff is trained in infectious disease control, luckily, and we’re doing all the things one typically does to protect against a virus.”

Harry said additionally, all school buses were being disinfected daily.

“That is such a close environment; kids are right up in each other’s faces,” he said. “(The disinfecting) is a smart thing to do. It’s little things that can help prevent the spread of illness.”

Harry said school officials are taking the necessary steps to protect its students — even if it means closing the doors.

“It would have been best for us if this (outbreak) happened in about four weeks — school would have been out,” he said. “Of course, we’re going to deal with it as it comes and will work closely with the state and local health department if and when the situation arises and we have to close the school.

“We just hope it doesn’t happen,” he said.

A closing of the school would fall under phase 4 or the “red phase” of the system’s pandemic plan, he said.