The move suspends the baseball and softball seasons and eliminates the regional track championships that were to start May 1, said Charles Breithaupt, executive director of the University Interscholastic League. He said league officials acted on the recommendation of public health officials.

“The health and safety of our student activity participants is of the utmost importance,” Breithaupt said. “Taking every possible precaution to prevent the further spreading of this disease is an important contribution to the welfare of our great state, and altering the schedule of our events is a way to keep our participants safe.”

State education officials say 53,000 Texas students are out of school owing to concern over the virus, and dozens of schools were closed to be sanitized.

Swine flu outbreaks had spread to at least 10 states as of April 29, reported the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization said the outbreak is moving closer to becoming a full-scale pandemic.

Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the organization’s top flu expert, told reporters in Geneva that the latest developments are moving the agency closer to raising its pandemic alert to phase 5, indicating widespread human-to-human transmission. That’s just one step below level 6, a full-fledged pandemic.

In Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was questioned closely by senators about whether the U.S. should close its border with Mexico, where the outbreak apparently began and the casualties have been the greatest. She repeated the administration’s position that questioning of people at borders and ports of entry was sufficient for now and said closing borders “has not been merited by the facts.”

Dr. Richard Besser, the acting chief of the Centers for Disease Control, said in Atlanta that there are confirmed cases now in 10 states, with 51 in New York, 14 in California, and 16 in Texas. Two cases have been confirmed in Kansas, Massachusetts, and Michigan, while single cases have been reported in Arizona, Indiana, Nevada, and Ohio.

If more schools were to close as a result of the virus, mass-notification technology would work “tremendously well” to help keep parents informed, said Jim Hanna, superintendent of Indiana’s Rossville Consolidated School District, which serves 1,038 students. Hanna recently used a system called SchoolReach to communicate information about a missing student to the district’s parents. The student was found, safe, almost immediately after the alert went out.

The district distributed a paper newsletter to parents April 29, informing them of Indiana’s one confirmed case of swine flu and letting them know that district officials are continuing to monitor county, state, and national developments. That newsletter also was available in PDF format on the district’s web site.

If more schools do close, a mass-notification system not only would inform parents and students of closure details, but also could be used for educational purposes if schools remain closed for an extended period of time.

“We could use the system to notify students of [class-related] information that’s on our web site, if a teacher has uploaded assignment information,” Hanna said, adding that teachers would have to keep assignment information current and that eMail correspondence also might help.

Add your opinion to the discussion.