Swine Flu Scare Shuts Down Five NYC Schools

Eleven states are reporting 94 swine flu cases

New York City officials are one step closer to confirming a second cluster of students with swine flu, as another round of testing on samples from Queens students came back probable for the virus, News 4 New York has learned.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is still the only entity that can officially confirm the swine flu strain, but an initial test conducted by the city on swabs from students at PS 177 has returned positive for animal flu. The CDC results, which will determine whether that animal strain is swine flu, are due back today, city health officials said.

The development comes as three 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.

The Bishop Kearney school in Bensonhurst said it was closing for the rest of the week as a precautionary measure over fears that several students may have come into contact with people who have swine flu.

Meantime, 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 Preparatory 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. 
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. 
"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. 

"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.

New Jersey health officials say they have now identified seven probable cases of swine flu among state residents.  A hotline has been set up to answer questions about the virus at 1-866-321-9571.

Eleven states have now reported 94 swine flu infections, including cases in Ohio, Kansas, Texas, California, Michigan, Indiana, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts and Maine. New York has the most reported swine flu cases with 51, followed by 16 in Texas and 14 in California. State officials in Maine said laboratory tests had confirmed three cases in that state, not yet included in the CDC count.

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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