Up to 200 possibly infected with swine flu at Queens high school

April 26th, 2009 - 1:41 pm ICT by admin  

Queens, NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) – The New York City Health Department is investigating a cluster of respiratory illness in a private school in Queens and it has not determined that at least 8 students have most likely the swine flu, the disease which is currently spreading across Mexico and the United States.

Commissioner Thomas Frieden, in a news conference, said that up to 200 students at the school were absent several days this week due to fever, sore throats and other flu-like symptoms. So far, the Health Department has interviewed more than 100 students or their families, and none of them have reported any serious symptoms and none of them have been hospitalized for their condition. Some family members of the students have since developed similar symptoms, suggesting that the virus is also spreading in the family. A spokeswoman for the department could not say how many family members were reporting illness.

“In response to confirmed cases of swine influenza (swine flu) in Mexico, California and Texas, the New York City Health Department is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assess the possibility of the spread of swine flu,” a statement said.

Swine flu is a respiratory infection caused by influenza type A viruses that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can occur. Human cases typically involve people who have had direct contact with pigs, but person-to-person transmission is suspected among recent cases in the Southwest. The cases in Mexico have had a high fatality rate, but the eight recently confirmed cases from California and Texas have been mild. All of the non-NYC patients have recovered. On Saturday, additional swine flu cases were also confirmed in Kansas.

The New York City Health Department’s Public Health Laboratory has now completed preliminary viral testing on nose and throat swabs from nine affected students. Eight of the nine tests are positive Influenza A. Because they do not match H1 and H3 human subtypes of influenza A by available testing methods, they are considered probable cases of swine flu. The specimens have been sent to the CDC in Atlanta for confirmatory testing. Results of those tests are expected Sunday.

Patients experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek health care and treatment. Otherwise, the Health Department recommends at-home care. If affected students at the school in question have household contacts at high risk for complications from influenza – young children, the elderly, and people with chronic illness – those at risk should receive preventive treatment. The most effective way to lower the risk of transmission is for people with symptoms to stay home.

The department says that all New Yorkers should cover their mouths when they cough and take the additional precautions:

* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
* Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
* If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to avoid infecting them.

Swine influenza cannot be transmitted from eating pork or pork products, an official with the World Health Organization told BNO News earlier on Saturday. The symptoms of swine flu in people appear to be similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

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