Twenty-seven area schools have now shut down due to flu-like symptoms in students, including the Horace Mann School in the Bronx and four private and parochial schools also closing due to flu.
Over the last five days, the city closed 15 schools in Queens and one in Brooklyn after documenting confirmed cases of Swine Flu or H1N1 at I.S. 238Q, and unusually high levels of flu-like symptoms in the other schools. The Health Department continues to work with the Department of Education to assess the situation daily and make decisions regarding school closures on a case by case basis.
The Health Department and the Department of Education are working to monitor flu-like illness in New York City schools. Officials said some schools will experience temporary closures in the coming days and weeks. Rather than using a simple rule to close schools, the Health Department is carefully evaluating the circumstances at each one. High absenteeism, by itself, is not a basis for closure.
The Health Department said it is seeing increased levels of influenza in many parts of New York City.
"We know that the new H1N1 (swine origin) virus is present in New York City, and all evidence suggests that it is causing a large proportion of the city's current flu cases. Except in special circumstances, the Health Department does not test people with flu to determine which type they have," the department said in a written statement.
The city said it is trying to protect those at highest risk of complications from flu, such as those with previous existing conditions.
On Long Island, the Nassau County Department of Health confirmed 8 cases of H1N1 flu among Memorial Junior High School students in Valley Stream. The district, anticipating a large student absenteeism rate, decided to close Memorial Junior High School on Wednesday and Thursday, reopening on Tuesday, May 26. All other district schools will remain open as there have been no confirmed cases at North High School, South High School or Central High School.
In New Jersey, the first confirmed Hudson County case, involving a school-age boy, prompted Union City school officials on Monday to order the closing of his elementary school for a week.
Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting as well. Anyone experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek health care and treatment. The best way to prevent additional cases of flu in schools is to stay home when sick, cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing, and wash hands frequently. For those who are ill, the recommendation is to stay home until they are symptom-free for at least 24 hours.
Eating pork or pork products cannot spread H1N1 flu.
The most effective way to lower the risk of spreading the flu is for anyone with a fever, cough or sore throat to stay home. The Health Department urges everyone to continue taking these basic precautionary steps:
Influenza can evolve in unpredictable ways; officials said it is impossible to know whether this outbreak will dwindle, remain the same, or surge in coming weeks, and whether the illness will remain mild. Some severe cases may occur, including in people with underlying risk factors, such as young children, the elderly, and people with chronic medical conditions. The Health Department is watching closely for signs of increased virulence.
Schools Closed Because of Flu
The New York Department of Education has put a guide on its Web site for parents whose kids are home because their schools are closed. The link includes homework packets. CLICK HERE for the DOE guide.
For facts about influenza, and more information about swine flu, please visit the Health Department and CDC websites. Some specific resources:
From New York City Health Department
Facts about flu
From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
General information about swine flu
Swine Flu Case Definitions
Swine Flu Infection Control and Patient Care
Preventing the Flu