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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 018-09
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CONTACT: (212) 788-5290
Jessica Scaperotti/Erin Brady: PressOffice@health.nyc.gov


Health Department Continues Investigation of Swine Flu Cluster; Symptoms Remain Mild

Additional cases are expected; agency will reserve testing at this time for clusters of illness, or cases involving severe symptoms

April 28, 2009 – Swine flu is in New York City and, at least initially, appears to spread in patterns resembling a seasonal influenza, the Health Department said today. Additional cases are likely to emerge in coming weeks. The agency will continue to investigate possible clusters. “We suspect that swine flu is the predominant strain of influenza in New York City right now,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. “We will monitor apparent clusters, and investigate cases of severe illness. So far, virtually all confirmed and suspected cases have been mild and all the patients we know of have recovered or are recovering.”

Monday night the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 17 additional swine flu cases from the known cluster of illness at the St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens, bringing the total number of cases in New York City to 44. None of the patients with confirmed swine flu have suffered severe symptoms and all are recovering.

The Health Department sent five additional nasal-swab samples to CDC for confirmatory testing on Tuesday. All five were from patients with probable swine flu. These patients have tested positive for Influenza-A – a family that includes both human and porcine viruses – but the patients do not have any of the known human subtypes. Two of the probable infections involve people with links to Mexico, and three are from the school in Queens.  As of today, every case of confirmed swine flu is associated with a known exposure category. Each affected person has some link to the St. Francis Preparatory school or to Mexico.

The Health Department continues to monitor health trends in New York City, coordinating closely with city, state federal officials. On Tuesday, the agency sent a medical team to monitor reports of flu-like illness among students at Public School Q177, in Queens. Approximately seven students have developed fever in recent days, and there may be links to students at the school in Queens. Health Department personnel interviewed school staff, reviewed records of the children who went home sick, reached out to affected families, and are arranging to collect nasal swabs for testing. If other children fall ill at the school, the Health Department will gather information as the children are sent home. There are no confirmed cases at this school, or at any other school in New York City except the St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens.

Swine flu is rare in people, and human cases typically involve people who have had direct contact with pigs. But probable person-to-person transmission is now being reported in Mexico, the United States and other countries. The symptoms seem to resemble those of seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting as well. New Yorkers experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek health care and treatment. Otherwise, the Health Department recommends at-home care.

The Health Department is advising physicians not to over-prescribe Tamiflu for patients with mild symptoms. Antiviral medications should only be used for people with severe illness and to treat swine flu (or prevent it in those exposed to confirmed or likely cases) among those at risk of complications from flu, such as young children, the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions. The Health Department will continue to work with medical providers to test flu patients who develop severe illness or are associated with clusters, but does not currently recommend testing for all flu patients.

Eating pork or pork products cannot spread swine flu. The most effective way to lower the risk is for people with fever and either cough or sore throat to stay home.

  • All New Yorkers should cover their mouths when they cough.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

Flu epidemics evolve in unpredictable ways; it is impossible to know whether this one will dwindle, remain the same, or surge in coming weeks, and whether the illness will remain mild. Some severe cases are likely 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. 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 swine flu
http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/cd/swine_flu_faq.pdf

From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

General information about swine flu
http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/general_info.htm

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