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PR- 219-09
May 14, 2009


Letter from Health Commissioner Frieden and Schools Chancellor Klein to School Community is Attached

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Governor David A. Paterson, Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced that the City Health Department has recommended closing three schools in Queens for at least five school days after documenting unusually high levels of influenza-like illnesses. The three schools will be closed beginning tomorrow, Friday, May 15th, and will remain closed for at least five school days.

"We have been carefully monitoring the H1N1 virus, and we're taking this action today because there are unusually high levels of flu-like illnesses at three public schools," said Mayor Bloomberg. "As we have said from the outset of the appearance of H1N1 in our City last month, we will share with New Yorkers what we know and not speculate on what we don't know."

"We will continue to work closely with New York City officials to monitor the situation at these three schools and schools across our State to ensure that we are taking all necessary precautions to protect our children and families," said Governor Paterson.

The three schools are:

  • I.S. 238Q (the Susan B. Anthony School) in Jamaica: H1N1 has been documented in four students at I.S. 238Q as well as in a staff member who is critically ill, but more than 50 students have been sent home with flu-like symptoms since May 6th.

  • P.S. 16Q in Corona: 29 students from P.S. 16Q were documented with influenza-like symptoms in the nurse's room today. 

  • I.S. 5Q (the Walter Crowley Intermediate School) in Elmhurst: 241 students were reported absent from I.S. 5Q today.

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 Departments urges all 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

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 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.


Stu Loeser / Dawn Walker   (212) 788-2958

Jessica Scaperotti   (Health)
(212) 788-5290

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Download the letter (in PDF)