Swine Flu Confirmed in New York Students

By Robin Shulman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 26, 2009; 4:45 PM

NEW YORK -- Tests have confirmed that eight students at a New York Catholic high school have contracted swine flu, after some students at the school had visited Mexico over spring break two weeks ago.

About 100 students at St. Francis Preparatory School had complained of flu-like symptoms, and eight were confirmed with mild cases of the flu, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) told reporters today at a news conference.

Bloomberg said many of the students are already recovering, but some of their relatives have also come down with flu-like symptoms, "suggesting it is spreading person to person."

"So far there does not seem to be any outbreak," said Bloomberg. "We don't know if the spread will be sustained. What's heartening is the people who tested positive have only mild illnesses."

He said it is likely that some students contracted the virus in Mexico, though that has not been officially determined.

Officials at the city's Department of Health said the New York flu strain is close to, but less severe than, the one found in Mexico. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that it was swine flu after the city health agency sent samples to Atlanta on Saturday.

St. Francis, with 2,700 students, is the largest private Catholic high school in the country. The school has already canceled classes on Monday and Tuesday because of the outbreak, and city officials said the school would then assess next steps.

School administrators did not immediately respond to phone calls from a reporter.

Other cases of possible infection in a New York day-care center turned about to be false alarms. Five of six children at a center in the Bronx who had some flu-like symptoms tested negative for swine flu, said Thomas Frieden, the city's health commissioner.

Meanwhile, Gov. David A. Paterson (D) announced Sunday that he has put New York state officials on high alert to identify and respond to new cases of flu.

He said the state has launched a 24-hour hotline for questions about the flu, 1-800-808-1987, which received 300 calls in its first four hours of operation.

"We are coordinating a strong response with the CDC and city and county health departments," said Paterson.

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