City officials and the parents of a 16-month-old boy who died last night after being rushed to a Queens hospital are anxiously awaiting the results of the tot's swine flu test. The answer may come as early as today.
The parents of Jonathan Zamora Castillo, of Corona, noticed he was running a high fever last night and they rushed him to Elmhurst Hospital Center at 9:30 p.m. after the child began to turn blue, according to hospital spokesman Dario Centorcelli. The baby was pronounced dead at 10:20 p.m.
"We don't know what happened," the baby's father Zeferino Zamora told the Daily News. "Yesterday he was fine."
The baby's 3-year-old brother and cousin were treated for flu-like symptoms by Elmhurst Hospital and released.
"It's so tragic, especially for somebody of that age," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today. "Every parent in this city, myself included, can appreciate the grief the parents of these children are experiencing."
The infant was swabbed and swine flu tests will be conducted at the city Health Department's labs.
"We don't know yet whether the child who died had contracted the H1N1 virus," the mayor said.
Meanwhile, the hospital's emergency room has been packed with two to three times more patients with flu-like symptoms than normal for this time of year. The influx of patients is causing a five-hour emergency wait time with priority given to critical patients, Centorcelli said. Most the flu cases in the ER have been mild and have not required any hospitalization.
While health officials investigate the infant's death, prison officials are trying to slow the spread of swine flu at Rikers Island. One inmate was reported to possible have swine flu on Monday, but that number jumped to eight on Tuesday. Four inmates are confirmed to have the virus and four others are suspected of having it, according to the mayor.
Prison officials face the challenge of preventing the spread of the virus in an intuition that is built to keep people in confined spaces.
"You have a population that you can't say 'stay home,'" Bloomberg said.
The mayor said every prisoner was checked for flu symptoms before going to court today. All inmates are systematically checked for illnesses when they arrive at Rikers Island.
"We are planning to implement more health screenings and the isolation of inmates," Bloomberg added.
Several confirmed swine flu cases and hundreds of students with flu-like symptoms resulted in the closings of 16 schools in the city. Two parochial schools have closed and the city has closed 15 public schools in 11 buildings because of the swine flu outbreak, including Susan B. Anthony in Queens where an assistant principal became the city's first swine flu fatality.
Students at Susan B. Anthony school set up a make shift memorial on Monday to remember assistant principal Mitchell Wiener, who succumbed to the virus on Sunday night.
City medical officials stressed that Wiener, 55, had an underlying illness when he contracted swine flu. Wiener first got sick more than a week ago, but didn't go to the hospital until Wednesday morning. Weiner's family denied that he any pre-existing health conditions other than a case of the gout last year.
The city's first outbreak of swine flu occurred three weeks ago, when about 700 students and 300 other people associated with a Catholic high school in Queens began falling ill following the return of several students from vacations in Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Four more city schools are slated to be shuttered today due to growing concerns about a swine flu outbreak. The total of closed schools is now at 16 and counting.
"We continue to see a rising tide of flu in many parts of New York City," said outgoing New York City Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden. "As the virus spreads, we will look to slow transmission within individual school communities by closing individual schools. We fully expect to see more severe illness in the coming days."
Wiener was the sixth person in the United States to die of the virus.
On Thursday a woman in Arizona became the fourth victim in the US to die from swine flu Thursday. That case brought the worldwide death toll to 70.
Do you have questions or concerns about the swine flu? E-mail us your questions and they'll be answered by a doctor during our televised special, "The Truth About Swine Flu," airing on Wednesday at 5 p.m. on 4 New York