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Still no swine flu in Black Belt region

After two probable cases of swine flu were discovered Wednesday in students attending an elementary school in Madison, Selma City and Dallas County schools began educating employees and students on the virus.

As of Thursday, there were no confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus – swine flu – in Dallas County or the Black Belt region. Takenya Taylor, director of the risk communication branch of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said the state continued to test about 75 specimens from across the state for swine flu.

“We have not gotten any test results yet,” Taylor said.

While public health officials wait on results, local school officials took precautions Thursday. Dallas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Fannie Major-Mackenzie drafted a letter to parents and students that will be distributed throughout the system on Friday. The letter outlines precautions schools will take, educates parents and students about the virus and offers advice on how to prevent the spread of germs.

“We’re highlighting the fact that we don’t have any known cases in our area,” Major-Mackenzie said. “But if we get it, we’ll be prepared.”

Dallas County has cancelled out-of-town field trips, too. Administrative assistant Don Willingham said two elementary school field trips to the Montgomery Zoo were cancelled Thursday.

“Probably no more field trips,” Willingham said.

Lead nurse Cheryl Olinger met with all the nurses in the city school system Thursday to review the system’s policy on handling flu pandemics. If a child displays symptoms, the student is isolated, parents are called and the student is sent home and referred to a physician. Olinger advised students and parents to look for symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing and fever.

“We’re just monitoring the situation every day,” she said. “The fever’s key. If they have fever with it, you know they can be suspect.”

Olinger urged parents and students to remain calm, especially since there was no evidence confirming swine flu in Dallas County.

“Pandemic is not about the severity of the flu itself,” she said. “It’s about the spread of the flu. How global it is, how far across the country it is. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not that type flu itself is mild, moderate or severe.”

Selma City Schools Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan said the best measure to take was to just follow normal hygiene guidelines. That means plenty of hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue.

“We’re doing everything we can do to prevent it,” he said.