More NYC schools closed because of flu

May 23, 2009 1:14:03 PM PDT
Eight more New York City schools will be closed for at least a part of next week. The city health Department recommended closing four more school buildings -- one in Queens, two in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan for up to five days after documenting an unusually high amount of influenza-like illness over a number of days.

The four schools buildings are:

  • P.S. 58 (School of Heroes, 969 students) in Maspeth, which includes P9Q (79 students), a school for students with disabilities. A total of seven students were documented with influenza-like illness during the last two school days.
  • P.S. 160 (William T. Sampson, 829 students) in Borough Park, which also includes special education classes. A total of 17 students were documented with influenza-like illness during the last three school days.
  • P.S./I.S. 384 (Frances E. Carter School, 697 students) in Bushwick, which includes P53 (135 students), a school for students with disabilities. A total of 16 students were documented with influenza-like illness during the last four school days.
  • P.S. 138 (425 students) in East Harlem, a school for students with disabilities, which also includes P.S. 30 (376 students) and M317 (Kappa II, 199 students). A total of 14 students were documented with influenza-like illness today.

    In making the announcement, Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein also discussed the rationale behind closing individual New York City schools in response to the presence of the swine flu (H1N1) virus.

    All evidence suggests that the new virus is causing a large proportion of the city's current flu cases. To date, 40 schools have been closed in an attempt to slow transmission within the school community.

    Frieden and Klein explained that school closure is not done with the expectation that it will stop the spread of flu in the city as a whole.

    "The new H1N1 virus is here in New York City," said New York City Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden. "Many school children have mild flu, as they do each flu season. We are closing certain schools in an effort to slow transmission within the school community and protect those at highest risk of complications from flu."

    "In some instances when many children are sick, closing a school and keeping children home can reduce further infection. We continue to work alongside the Health Department in monitoring schools and closing them when the Health Department so recommends," said Chancellor Joel I. Klein.

    Flu-like illness in New York City schools are monitored daily. School nurses notify the principal and contact the City's Office of School Health if there are five or more children who come to the medical room and who have a fever that meets the standard definition of being over 100.4O accompanied by either cough or sore throat.

    Once that threshold is reached, the Health Department reviews daily flu-like illness among students coming to the medical room, as well as absenteeism data over the past week. The Health Department looks for either a sudden or a sustained increase in flu-like illness. Every school with a cluster of students with flu-like illness is monitored daily. High absenteeism, by itself, is not a basis for closure. If parents keep sick children home, it can reduce transmission and the risk to vulnerable people

    There is no single number upon which school closures decisions are made. The Health Department carefully evaluates the circumstances occurring at each school and considers many factors including:

  • The number of visits to the nurse by children with documented fever flu-like illness
  • The trend of flu-like illness over several days and the potential benefit of reduced transmission over weekend days, when school is not in session;
  • The percentage of children absent with flu-like illness;
  • Reports of teacher illness while they are in the school; and
  • Special circumstances of the school, such as children in District 75 schools -schools for students with disabilities;
  • Whether a school is an elementary, intermediate or high school.

    The Health Department pays closest attention to schools in which over 1-2% of the student body comes to the medical room on a given day with fever and cough or sore throat. This indicates that a significant number of students are ill while at school and may be spreading infection to those at risk.

    The decision to close a school balances a definite harm - lost education, parental wages, school nutrition programs and possible unsupervised children - with a possible benefit. The potential benefit is a reduction in the number of people who might get seriously ill from flu because they have an underlying risk condition and they study or work at that individual school or are a household contact of someone at the school.

    Examples of schools that were closed:

    P.S. 19Q (District 24) has 1,979 students. On each of the five days of the week May 11 through 15, four or fewer students came to the medical room with a fever and cough or sore throat. On May 18, 33 students came with fever and flu-like illness. This sudden increase accounted for over 1.5% of the student body. The school was closed.

    P.S. 130Q (District 25) has 304 students. On Monday, May 18, three students were seen in the medical room with fever and cough or sore throat. The trend repeated on Tuesday. On Wednesday, six students came in with flu-like symptoms. Though the number of students with symptoms was low, it represents 2% of the student body and was a doubling from the two days before. Also, absenteeism was high on Wednesday at nearly 30%. The school was closed.

    Examples of schools that were monitored and not closed:

    P.S. 204K (District 20) has 985 students. On Monday, May 11, seven children came in with flu-like symptoms and the Health Department began monitoring the school daily. Over the course of the week, the number of children coming to the medical room with fever and cough or sore throat steadily decreased and never exceeded five. Absenteeism in this school was relatively high, reaching up to 30%. Although it is almost certainly the case that flu is affecting many students in the school, since there are not a high number of students getting sick while in school and spreading infection, we did not recommend closing. Absenteeism has since declined by half and has remained at 13-15% and there were few students with flu-like illness on each of the subsequent days.

    I.S. 227Q (District 30) has 1,456 students. The number of students with flu-like illness coming to the medical room was one to two per day from May 11 to May 14. On Friday, May 15, 15 children with fever came to the medical room. Though this was a substantial increase, it represented 1% of the student body. After the weekend, the number of children with flu-like symptoms dropped to six and continued to decline, so the school remained open.

    Those at higher risk if exposed to swine flu:

  • People over 65 or under 2 years of age
  • People with chronic lung disorders such as asthma or emphysema
  • People with chronic heart, kidney, liver or blood disorders
  • People with diabetes
  • People whose immune systems are compromised by illness or medication
  • Pregnant women
  • People on long-term aspirin therapy

    See your doctor immediately if you fall into one of these groups and you become ill or have been exposed to someone with H1N1.

    For information on the complete list of school closings in New York City, see the link below:




    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