UPDATE: Swine flu reported in more Miss. schools

JACKSON — School districts around Mississippi have reported suspected cases of what is being called the novel H1N1 swine flu.

State health officials have not recommended any closings.

Estelle Watts, statewide school nurse consultant for the Department of Education, said parents are being told to keep children at home if they are sick.

On Wednesday, the Vicksburg-Warren School District Web site reported 25 suspected cases. On Tuesday, Hazlehurst reported on case. In Lee County, there were about a half-dozen suspected cases as of Wednesday.

In Poplarville, school officials have reported a few cases of flu but referred to it as a mild Type A strain.

“Unless a school has so many absentees with either faculty or staff that the school can’t function, there is no reason to close down a school,” said Dr. Paul Byers, medical director for the epidemiology program at the Mississippi Department of Health.

The novel swine flu falls under the broad Type A category, said Dr. Skip Nolan, interim director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“But it’s a new strain. So people don’t have immunity to it, and more people are getting it.”

Symptoms are no more severe than those of other flu strains, health officials say. They include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

At Mississippi State University, 84 probable cases were reported Wednesday, said Robert Cadenhead, administrator of MSU’s Longest Student Health Center.

Dr. Robert Collins, director of the center, said there have been more suspected cases since then.

“We knew an outbreak was coming, but it’s definitely a little earlier than I expected.”

MSU’s health center has purchased 5,000 thermometers to distribute to students so they can monitor a fever.

“I don’t know how many we have left,” Collins said.

At the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg had two probable cases of the flu, said Joseph Paul, vice president of student affairs.

The University of Mississippi in Oxford has had a “few scattered cases,” said Barbara Lago, Ole Miss spokeswoman.

As a precaution, Ole Miss officials canceled Saturday’s “Meet the Rebels” event, in which fans mingle with the football team.

Across the state, 413 cases of the swine flu have been confirmed by the Department of Health since May 15.

Byers said swine flu vaccine should be available by mid-October.

The Associated Press