AHSAA haults playoffs in response to swine flu cases

The Alabama Department of Health announced Wednesday evening that two probable cases of swine flu have been detected near Huntsville.

The two people possibly infected with the virus were students at Heritage Elementary School in Madison.

Although the students did not directly test positive for swine flu, they did not test positive for the known seasonal flu, indicating around a 90 percent probability of having swine flu.

So far, no cases of swine flu cases have been reported in Shelby County.

“With the reports coming from other states and countries in the world, unfortunately, it is not surprising that we have detected probable cases in Alabama,” said Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer. “At this point, I’m grateful that no one in Alabama has yet required hospitalization, but I am concerned we will continue to see additional cases, some of which may be more severe.”

Other students at Heritage Elementary have complained of similar, flu-like symptoms and officials have decided to close the school for one week, according to Madison City Schools Superintendent Dee O. Fowler.

The likely infections sent shock waves throughout the state Wednesday, as most Madison schools, public and private, decided to close until at least Monday.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association has shut down all athletic events until further notice.

“We hope to be able to resume activities by next Tuesday, but right now we must study the situation and take it one day at a time,” said Steve Savarese, AHSAA executive director.

Locally, the decision will affect county athletes competing in the AHSAA state track meets this weekend in Gulf Shores and Troy.

It will also move Briarwood’s Class 5A quarterfinal baseball series this weekend at home, Saturday’s second round of soccer playoffs and all softball area tournaments, which were scheduled to begin Thursday.

“This is not something we want to do,” Savarese said. “Right now, we want to be cautious.”

Savarese said the AHSAA hopes to have everything rescheduled by early next week.