April 25, 2009 – The Health Department is investigating a cluster of respiratory illness in a non-public school in New York City and has determined that at least 8 students have probable human swine influenza. More than 100 of the school’s students were absent several days this week due to fever, sore throats and other flu-like symptoms. The Health Department has interviewed more than 100 students or their families, and all students have had mild symptoms; none have been hospitalized. Some family members have developed similar symptoms, suggesting spread in the family.
In response to confirmed cases of swine influenza (swine flu) in Mexico, California and Texas, the New York City Health Department is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assess the possibility of the spread of swine flu.
Swine flu is a respiratory infection caused by influenza type A viruses that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can occur. Human cases typically involve people who have had direct contact with pigs, but person-to-person transmission is suspected among recent cases in the Southwest. The cases in Mexico have had a high fatality rate, but the eight recently confirmed cases from California and Texas have been mild. All of the non-NYC patients have recovered.
The Health Department’s Public Health Laboratory has completed preliminary viral testing on nose and throat swabs from nine affected students. Eight of the nine tests are positive Influenza A. Because they do not match H1 and H3 human subtypes of influenza A by available testing methods, they are considered probable cases of swine flu. The specimens have been sent to the CDC in Atlanta for confirmatory testing. Results of those tests are expected Sunday. (The attached chart outlines the steps required for confirmation.)
Patients experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek health care and treatment. Otherwise, the Health Department recommends at-home care. If affected students at the school in question have household contacts at high risk for complications from influenza – young children, the elderly, and people with chronic illness – those at risk should receive preventive treatment. The most effective way to lower the risk of transmission is for people with symptoms to stay home.
All New Yorkers should cover their mouths when they cough. Additional precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to avoid infecting them.
Swine influenza cannot be transmitted from eating pork or pork products. The symptoms of swine flu in people appear to be similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.
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
Chart: Steps Required to Confirm Suspected Cases of Swine Flu