Wednesday, April 29, 2009

flu may have spread within new york city

NYTimes | The swine flu outbreak in New York may have spread beyond one school in Queens — where victims now are estimated to number in the hundreds — to pockets across the city, including at least two other schools, officials said on Tuesday.

At Public School 177, a school for autistic children in Fresh Meadows, Queens, 12 students had fever or other symptoms that could indicate swine flu. The school, at 56-37 188th Street, which was closed as a precaution, is about half a mile from St. Francis Preparatory School, at 61-00 Francis Lewis Boulevard, where the first cases were detected several days ago. Tests of students there have not been completed.

About half a dozen children at Ascension School, a Roman Catholic school on 108th Street near Broadway in Manhattan, have come down with fever. That school was not closed, but health officials will test students for swine flu on Wednesday.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a news conference that two people had been hospitalized with suspected swine flu — a young boy just admitted to a hospital in the Bronx, and a woman treated on Sunday at a hospital in Brooklyn. Both had family members who had traveled to Mexico, he said.

There were also unconfirmed reports of cases at Ernst and Young, an accounting firm in Times Square, and at Teachers College at Columbia University.

Though the symptoms of the virus in the New York cases have been mild so far, Mr. Bloomberg and Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city health commissioner, raised the possibility for the first time on Tuesday that people in the United States could die from the spreading outbreak, even as they urged New Yorkers to keep calm.

“It is here, and it is spreading,” Dr. Frieden said.

The big puzzle, Dr. Frieden said, is why the symptoms of those who have fallen ill so far in New York are mild, and whether the virus will just fizzle or get worse over time, becoming more like the outbreak in Mexico.