Language Barrier Adds to Swine Flu Mayhem

Another local school closed Thursday

By Tom Llamas and John P. Wise
|  Thursday, May 28, 2009  |  Updated 10:10 AM EDT
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Language Barrier Complicates Swine Flu Alerts

AP

Parents in at least one school district aren't finding out about closures because of the language barrier.

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Language Barrier Complicates Swine Flu Alerts

Some people in neighborhoods where Spanish is the primary language aren't finding out about school closures and other swine-flu news as quickly as those in English-speaking neighborhoods.
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As yet another local school is added to the list of those closed for Thursday, one neighborhood is dealing with the swine flu in two languages.

PS 161 in Morningside Heights will close Thursday after 33 students are reported to be experiencing flu-like symptoms there in recent days.

Meanwhile, in Washington Heights, Councilman Miguel Martinez said when officials at PS 128 -- the Audobon School -- decided to close Tuesday, it was a busy night on the phones.

"(Tuesday) night, teachers and staff were calling parents from 6 and 7 o'clock until 10 o'clock at night to let them know school was closed," Martinez said.

There are no confirmed cases at the school, but scores of students were absent with the flu. Martinez said part of the problem is that swine flu notifications are getting lost in translation.

"All the postings that went up around the school building and the information given to parents were in English," Martinez said.

So far, four people have died with swine flu in New York. Health officials couldn't go into details about what the victims had in common, only that each had a pre-existing health issue.

To see a complete list of school closures and re-openings, click here.

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