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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 025-09
Friday, May 15, 2009

CONTACT:
Jessica Scaperotti (DOHMH) (212) 788-5290, PressOffice@health.nyc.gov

Margie Feinberg (DOE) (212) 374-5141


Health Commissioner Frieden and Schools Chancellor Klein Announce City Will Close Three Additional Schools for in Response to H1N1 Virus

May 15, 2009 — Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced that the City Health Department has recommended closing three more schools in the City — two in Queens and one in Brooklyn — for up to five school days after documenting unusually high levels of influenza-like illnesses. The three schools will be closed beginning Monday, May 15th.  

"Despite the significant disruption this causes, the Health Department has recommended closing these schools to reduce the spread of influenza," said Health Commissioner Frieden. "We are continuing to carefully monitor H1N1 virus throughout the City, and are taking action again today because there are unusually high and increasing levels of flu-like illnesses at these three public schools."

"We are closing three schools today after close consultation with the Health Department," said Chancellor Klein. "School closures are a difficult decision, but our first priority is the health of our students. We will continue to work side by side with the Health Commissioner and his staff to ensure that we keep New York City public schools safe and healthy for our students," said Chancellor Klein.

The three schools are:

  • JHS 74Q (Nathanial Hawthorne School, 1021 students) in Bayside: 26 students with documented flu-like symptoms.
  • P.S. 107Q (Thomas A. Dooley, 891 students) in Flushing: Flu-like symptoms were documented as being persistently high this week and 49 students were documented with flu-like symptoms.
  • I.S. 318K (Eugenio Maria De Hostos, 1517 students) in Williamsburg: 53 students were documented with flu-like symptoms this week.

Yesterday the city closed three schools in Queens for at least 5 days (I.S. 238Q, P.S. 16Q and I.S. 5Q) after documenting unusually high levels of flu-like symptoms.

The Health Department has seen a general increase in flu activity in Queens. While the symptoms of H1N1 (SO) flu seem to resemble those of seasonal flu, the H1N1 virus appears to spread more extensively, at least in schools, warranting closures to slow transmission in the community. 

Symptoms of H1N1 (SO) 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. The best way to prevent additional cases of flu in school is to ensure that people wash their hands frequently and cover their mouths when coughing and sneezing. 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 (SO) flu. The most effective way to lower the risk of spreading the flu is for people with a fever and either a cough or a sore throat to stay home. The City's Health Department urges everyone to continue taking these basic precautionary steps:

  • Cover your mouth when you cough, either with your sleeve or a tissue or handkerchief.
  • 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.
  • If you are sick with fever and either a cough or sore throat, stay home for at least 24 hours after all of your symptoms are gone.
  • Stay away from clinics and hospitals unless you have severe symptoms, and notify your doctor or the clinic before you arrive, or as soon as you arrive, that you have a fever and respiratory symptoms so that you can be appropriately isolated from others.

School and day care administrators, employers and managers of group living facilities should make sure to do the following to avoid the spread of illness:

  • Keep shared spaces clean and well ventilated.
  • Group living facilities should separate people who are sick
  • Schools and employers should encourage those who are sick to stay at home, but should not require doctors' notices to let healthy people return.
  • Encourage hand washing and the covering of mouths when coughing. Educational posters are available on the Health Department's website in English, Spanish and Chinese at www.nyc.gov.

Influenza can evolve in unpredictable ways; it is impossible to know whether H1N1 will dwindle, remain the same, or surge in coming weeks, and whether the illness will remain mild. Some severe cases may occur 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.

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