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Swine Influenza Confirmed At St. Francis School In Queens

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Tests conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed cases of human swine flu among students at St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens. The school is suspending classes on Monday. The affected students have experienced only mild symptoms and many are already improving, but a similar virus has recently caused deaths in Mexico.

All of the U.S. patients have recovered fully. The Health Department’s surveillance system has not shown a citywide increase in flu-like illness. An investigation of a cluster of children with illness in a Bronx daycare facility has so far not identified any confirmed or probable cases.

The Queens investigation began last week, when more than 100 students at the St. Francis School developed flu-like symptoms, including fever and sore throat. The Health Department’s Public Health Laboratory tested nine nose and throat swabs. Eight of them tested positive for Influenza A but did match any of the known human variants of that virus (the H1 and H3 human subtypes) by available testing methods. On Saturday, the Health Department deemed them “probable” cases of human swine influenza and sent the samples to CDC in Atlanta for confirmatory testing. Those tests confirmed the presence of swine influenza viruses.

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 likely person-to-person transmission has now been reported in California, Texas, Mexico and New York City. Again, the cases in Mexico have had a high fatality rate, but the confirmed cases in the U.S. have been mild and all patients have recovered without treatment.

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The symptoms of swine flu in people appear to be similar to the symptoms of regular seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting as well. New Yorkers experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek health care and treatment. Otherwise, the Health Department recommends at-home care.

The most effective way to lower the risk of influenza transmission is for people with symptoms to stay home. All New Yorkers should cover their mouths when they cough. Additional precautions:

* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand 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.