The symptoms in the New York cases have been mild, Frieden said, but the illnesses have caused concern because of the deadly outbreak in Mexico, where classes in Mexico City, neighboring Mexico state and the northern state of San Luis Potosi have been canceled until May 6 and where up to 81 deaths are suspected and 20 have been confirmed.
Frieden said that if the CDC confirms that the New York students have swine flu, he will likely recommend that the school remain closed Monday “out of an abundance of caution.”
One factor, he said, is that the illness appears to be moving efficiently from person to person, affecting as many as 100 to 200 people in a student body of 2,700.
“We’re very concerned about what may happen,” he said, although he noted that the pattern of illness appeared different from in Mexico, where much larger groups of people have become much sicker. Overall, he said, flu cases have been declining in the city in recent weeks.
The school was being sanitized over the weekend but still was holding a reunion featuring cocktails, dinner and dancing for hundreds of alumni from as far back as 1939. A health department spokeswoman said the sanitization was just a precaution because it’s not really the environment that passes the flu.
Alumna Joyce Kal, of the Class of 1979, said she wasn’t worried about getting sick.
“I did think about it, but I didn’t, you know, worry, because if it’s the kids, I don’t think it’s going to linger,” said Kal, a physical therapist from the Bayside neighborhood.
The city health department has asked doctors to be extra vigilant in the coming days and test any patients who have flu-like symptoms and have traveled recently to California, Texas or Mexico.
Investigators also were testing children who fell ill at a day care center in the Bronx, Frieden said. And two families in Manhattan had contacted the city, saying they had recently returned ill from Mexico with flu-like symptoms.
Frieden said New Yorkers having trouble breathing due to an undiagnosed respiratory illness should seek treatment but shouldn’t become overly alarmed. Medical facilities in the part of Queens near St. Francis Prep, he said, had already been flooded with people overreacting to the outbreak.
This swine flu and regular flu can have similar symptoms - mostly fever, cough and sore throat, though some of the American victims who recovered also experienced vomiting and diarrhea. But unlike with regular flu, humans don’t have natural immunity to a virus that includes animal genes - and new vaccines can take months to be brought into use.
But experts at the WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the nature of this outbreak may make containment impossible. Already, more than 1,000 people have been infected in as many as 14 of Mexico’s 32 states, according to daily newspaper El Universal. Tests show 20 people have died of the swine flu, and 48 other deaths are likely due to the same strain.
The CDC and Canadian health officials were studying samples sent from Mexico, and airports around the world were screening passengers from Mexico for symptoms of the new flu strain, saying they may quarantine passengers.
Mexico’s president said his government only discovered the nature of the virus late Thursday, with the help of international laboratories. “We are doing everything necessary,” he said in a brief statement.
Across Mexico’s capital, residents reacted with fatalism and confusion, anger and mounting fear at the idea that their city may be ground zero for a global epidemic.View Entire Story
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