No flu in county schools

Published 12:26 am Friday, August 28, 2009

SELMA — Dallas County School System officials say they have prepared to deal with the swine flu, or Novel H1N1 influenza, if cases break out within the 4,000-student school system.

When asked if they had any reported cases, David Hagood, spokesman for the school system said, “Not that we are aware of.”

Yet, a teacher who declined to identify herself and her middle school said many cases of the swine flu had broken out in her area. She said she teaches eighth grade. The teacher said many students were absent from the school.

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Hagood said earlier this week the system had about 400 students absent in a day. He said absentees could occur for a variety of reasons, especially in middle and high schools through the system.

The Alabama Department of Public Health also has no reports of swine flu reported in Dallas County as of Thursday.

Earlier this week, representatives from the state Health Department gave a presentation on the swine flu to counselors, administrators and central office staff, Hagood said.

Officials at the school system received a fact sheet that describes swine flu’s symptoms and gave guidelines to prevent the spread of flu, including the swine flu.

The Centers for Disease Control based in Atlanta recommends the primary way to reduce spread of flu in schools focuses on early identification of ill students and staff, staying home when ill and good cough and hand hygiene etiquette.

On Thursday, State Health Officer Don Williamson said businesses and schools should not require doctors’ excuses for workers and students who have been absent because of swine flu.

Williamson said most flu victims are able to return to school or work after three to five days.

Williamson said requiring doctors’ excuses will slow down medical personnel struggling to handle all the flu cases.

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Joe Morton said he agrees with Williamson’s recommendation, but the state Department of Education will leave that decision up to local school systems.

The Dallas County School Board recently wrote and released a pandemic influenza response plan. The 11-page document describes different kinds of flu, defines a pandemic flu and lists staff and responsibilities to deal with the pandemic.

The plan also lists various responses to flu in schools, depending on the severity of cases and number of flu cases in Alabama and Dallas County.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.