Swine Flu Closes Two Brooklyn Schools

Two more New York City parochial schools closed their doors today after students came down with suspected cases of swine flu, said a spokesman for the Brooklyn diocese.

Nine students at Good Shepherd in Marine Park and one student at St. Brigid in Bushwick have fallen sick with flu-like symptoms, according to the Rev. Kieran Harrington, a Diocese spokesman. The sick student at St. Brigid, a sixth-grader, has a brother who attends St. Francis Prepatory School in Queens, where there are more than two dozen confirmed cases of the virus.
At Good Shepherd, there are reports that an eighth grader may have tested positive for swine flu after his mother took him to the hospital yesterday where she works, Harrington said. However health officials want to double check since positive cultures usually take longer than one day, Harrington said. He would not identify the hospital.
Both schools will remain shut Thursday and Friday while cleaning crews scour the facilities, he said. At St. Brigid, there are 223 students and Good Shepherd has 427, Harrington said. The suspected cluster at Good Shepherd arose on Tuesday when one student fell ill and then eight more became sick on Wednesday, Harrington said.
"We're implementing our crisis management plan, exercising every precaution on behalf of the children," said Harrington. "We are confident that we are doing everything possible to protect the children who go to Catholic schools."

New York City Health Commissioner Tom Frieden said he did not recommend the closure of the schools. 

"We did not have a feeling that the should close," he said during a press conference today.

President Barack Obama suggested that school closings may be necessary. A total of four schools in the city have closed because of the swine flu.

"Every American should know that the federal government is prepared to do whatever is necessary to control this virus," Obama said.

The escalating global health emergency claimed the first death in the United States -- a 23-month-old Texas toddler. Swine flu is suspected of killing more than 150 people in Mexico and sickening over 2,400 there.

"As a pediatrician and a parent, my heart goes out to the family," Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during an interview on the TODAY Show.

There are now 51 confirmed cases of swine flu in New York City and more testing is being done on the first three probable cases of swine flu found outside the city, New York health officials said today.

All those with confirmed cases are recovering, Frieden said.
Cases in Suffolk, Orange and Cortland counties are believed caused by the same virus that has proved deadly in Mexico and is spreading worldwide, Health Commissioner Richard Daines said. But that won't be confirmed until federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tests are complete.
In the meantime, as many as 70 workers and residents at a long-term care facility in Orange County will be treated with the anti-viral agent Tamiflu because one of the suspected cases involves a health care worker there.
Of the confirmed cases in New York, most are at St. Francis Prep, according to the CDC.

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith Wednesday bowed out of his controversial trip to Puerto Rico, citing concern over the health of his daughter, a student at the school at the center of the city's swine flu outbreak, the Daily News reported today.

Some parents at a Manhattan private school pulled their kids out of class and others put masks on their children amid growing fears that the swine flu cases may continue to rise in the city.

Several parents at Ascension, a parochial school in Manhattan, pulled their kids out of class today while health officials investigated possible swine flu cases. The school remained open, but one parent told NBCNewYork.com that she took her child out of class because only three of the 21 students were in attendance.

School officials sent a letter to home to parents yesterday to assure them that no cases of swine flu have been confirmed, although seven children were sent home after complaining of fevers.

"Ascension School remains open and is considered a safe environment for our children," Principal Michael Lenahan wrote in a letter to parents.

The letter came in response to New York City Health Commissioner Tom Frieden's mention of the school in a press conference yesterday.

Hundreds of school kids are ill with what is "most likely swine flu," Frieden said Tuesday. 

"It is here and it is spreading," Frieden said. "We do not know whether it will continue to spread."

In addition to the confirmed cases St. Francis, there are new cases being probed at PS 177, a school for autistic children in Queens as well as at Ascension on the Upper West Side, Frieden said.  PS 177 has been closed while students and parents await testing results.

The number of cases nationwide rose to 91 on Wednesday, according to the CDC. The other known cases are one in Ohio, Kansas, Texas, California, Michigan, Indiana, Nevada, Arizona and Massachusetts.

Richard Besser, acting director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said although ordinary human flu accounts for 36,000 deaths every year, he was concerned by this strain.
Pediatric deaths attributed to the normal flu strain are also common. Eight children died in New York due to flu-related illnesses during the flu season last year, with another seven passing away this season, according to Daines.

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