“The swine flu here looks like the garden variety flu we see every year,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “It is very possible that this will spread further and your child will get it,” he added.
“All patients we know of are recovering, with the overwhelming majority having had only mild illness.”
The new flu virus has killed 159 people in Mexico and has spread to seven countries on four continents, threatening to become a global pandemic. No deaths have been reported outside of Mexico, but federal officials are warning Americans to brace for the first fatalities here.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Richard Besser said the regular winter flu kills 35,000 Americans a year. Bloomberg noted that about 1,000 of them are New Yorkers, an unfortunate number but one that shouldn’t cause panic.
“No one should be afraid to go about their day,” he said.
A second Queens school, Public School 177, was closed indefinitely after 82 autistic students and 40 staffers called in sick, some with flu symptoms.
The special needs school in Fresh Meadows is about a mile from St. Francis Prep, where hundreds of students reported fevers and nausea and 44 tested positive for swine flu. One of the sick kids at PS 177 has siblings who go to St. Francis, a possible infection connection.
Both schools likely will be closed until next week.
The new virus also was confirmed in a Bronx 2-year-old and a Brooklyn woman, the mayor said. Neither had a link to St. Francis, but both had friends or relatives who went to Mexico recently.
“It is here and it is spreading,” said city Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden.
The World Health Organization has raised its pandemic threat level to 4 out of 6, meaning the the virus no longer can be contained.
Several other states, including New Jersey, have suspected cases.
One new possible case in Florida prompted particular worries: A Mexican tourist who visited Disney World fell sick with what might be swine flu. Hundreds of children and their parents could have been exposed at the Orlando-area attraction. Tests were not complete last night.
His nominee for health and human services secretary, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, was hastily confirmed over the objections of conservatives opposed to her pro-choice stance. Her nomination had faced a fight until the flu scare broke out.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said summer weather should help retard the spread of the virus, but that the epidemic would regain strength in the autumn.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” she said.
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