2009-04-30 / Top Stories

Health Dept. Offers Answers About City Swine Flu Outbreak

Commissioner Thomas Frieden Commissioner Thomas Frieden The Health Department on Monday announced that four days of close monitoring has yet to show any increase in reports of severe respiratory illness in New York City. The agency is investigating a cluster of illness at the St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens, where 100 students missed classes because of flu-like illness last week. Daily calls with hospitals and monitoring of admissions have yet to suggest a wider or more severe outbreak.

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Thomas Frieden issued the following letter about recent reports of the swine flu: Dear Parents:

The following provides answers to some questions you may have about the recent news report of swine flu confirmed in a nonpublic school in Queens. It is very important to be alert to this situation, but also to be calm. If you need more information please call 311 or your family physician.

What is swine influenza?

Swine flu is a respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses that regularly cause outbreaks in pigs. There have been reports of serious illness and deaths due to swine flu in Mexico, but the recently confirmed cases in the United States have been mild.

What are the symptoms of swine influenza?

Swine flu symptoms are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, lethargy, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu.

Is it safe for my child to attend school?

So far only one school, St. Francis Preparatory in Queens, is closed. There is no reason for anyone else to keep healthy children at home. If a child has fever or a respiratory illness they should be kept home from school until they have recovered.

What will happen if a student is sick?

The student will be evaluated by the nurse. If the nurse believes that the student may have influenza, the child will be separated from other students and sent home. The student should not take the school bus. Students with symptoms of flu should not return to school until they have been symptom-free for 1 to 2 days.

What will happen if a school employee has flu symptoms?

The person will go home and not return to school until 1-2 days after they become symptom free.

What cleaning measures will be undertaken if a child or staff member is ill?

Hard surfaces that may have been contaminated by the ill child will be cleaned with disinfectant.

Is swine influenza treatable?

Yes. Antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms). It is particularly important for people who have severe illness and for those with underlying illness (such as diabetes, heart, or lung disease) to be treated.

How does swine influenza spread?

Swine flu viruses can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Human-tohuman transmission is also possible, and appears to be occurring with this outbreak. Spread is mainly through coughing or sneezing. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

How can I protect myself from swine influenza?

Here are the best ways to avoid getting or spreading swine influenza:

·Encourage all people to cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze.

·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, limit contact with others to avoid infecting them.

These are the same protections as those for seasonal flu and many other respiratory infections.

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