School site aids swine flu prevention

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 2, 2009

After months of concerns over a pandemic, the swine flu virushas reared its ugly head in Lincoln County, but the Lincoln CountySchool District is ready to keep the area informed on ways toprevent spreading the virus.

LCSD Web site systems administrator Patrick Brown said followinga May Webinar, in which State Department of Education officialstold schools to keep their communities informed of the threat, thecounty school district decided to go the easiest route: throughcyberspace. The Lincoln County Public School District has posted apage to its Web site advising not only school district members, butalso the community, of ways to identify and prevent the swine fluvirus.

“Our students and employees and their welfare and safety are ournumber one priorities,” Brown said. “Even though students may betaking measures to stop the spread already, the information we sendout is a constant reminder to students, employees and parents tomake sure they watch out for their personal hygiene. And they canalways come back there for information.”

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Mississippi Department of Health officials said Mississippi isreporting 152 cases of the swine flu, with one of those cases inLincoln County. Additional information on the local case was notavailable.

To combat the virus’ spread, Brown said state educationofficials saw the districts as a conduit of information based onthe number of people they can reach. And that has already proventrue in Lincoln County, he said.

“They were asking the districts to help spread information tothe public, because district is a way to get information quickly toparents,” he said. “We have over 3,000 students, and documentationto parents gets there a lot faster. We created kind of a resourcecenter for one reason, that’s one of our primary means ofcommunication with parents, students and the general public.”

The Lincoln County School District’s Web site can be found, and the link to the swine flu information canbe found on the right side of the page.

“Let me assure you that the health and well-being of ourstudents is our top priority and we are doing everything possibleto address the situation,” said District Superintendent TerryBrister in a letter to parents posted on the Web site, which alsoassures parents that any changes in the district will beposted.

The Web site also allows parents to register for emergencyalerts on the page regarding swine flu, so if there is anyimportant information, it can be immediately passed on.

“If there’s a major cause for an alert in reference to theschools, like a closing, or anything deemed necessary by the statedepartment of education, there will be an alert sent out,” Brownsaid. “There could also potentially be general alerts from thestate health department as well.”

Symptoms of swine flu in humans are similar to those of seasonalflu, causing fever, respiratory symptoms and body aches. Swine fluhas contributed to a number of deaths nationwide, principally inthose with pre-existing health conditions.

Officials said swine flu responds well to anti-viralmedications, but children, elderly people, pregnant women and thechronically ill may be at higher risk for complications.

Meanwhile, health department correspondence said the Center forDisease Control and the state health department are working closelyto identify possible cases of swine flu and to take preventiveaction as well as monitor flu activity in the state.

Of the recorded swine flu cases in Mississippi, Winston Countyhad the most new cases with nine confirmed. There were six newcases in Lamar, four each in Forrest and Jackson, two each inWebster, Tishomingo, Lee, Greene, George and Harrison counties.And, Attala, Chickasaw, Hinds, Lafayette, Lincoln, Marion,Oktibbeha, Panola, Perry, Rankin, Smith and Warren counties eachhad one new case.

The Health Department has set up a hotline for the swine fluvirus. Callers can receive more information or report concerns at1-877-222-9FLU.