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29 Apr, 2009 14:26

Swine flu rages in New York

In New York the number of suspected cases of swine flu is on the rise. At least three schools are feared to have been exposed to the virus. City officials say the average age of those infected is 16.

PS 177, a special needs school in New York City, has closed its doors after 82 students called in sick. What exacerbates this situation is that many of its students were not able to tell their teacher that they were suffering from flu symptoms.

Health officials say many of the PS 177 students are autistic and therefore they are not able to speak.

Anxiety is mounting among Queens residents living directly across the street from the school.

“It’s difficult and scary not knowing who you are walking next to, who is sneezing next to you, who is talking next to you… that you can be contaminated,” says local resident Adrian.

Officials say one student at PS 177 has two siblings at St. Francis Preparatory School – the nearby Queens high school where 45 cases of swine flu have been confirmed.

St. Francis Preparatory, with 2,700 students, has cancelled classes for the week.

Meanwhile, students from other Queens schools speak of more cases at more locations.

“I’ve heard Mary Louis, I’ve heard Cross, maybe even Malloy – I mean Prep obviously, St. Mary’s,” says Brandon Portelli, a high school student in Queens.

Sixty-eight cases of swine flu have been confirmed in New York, Ohio, Texas and California.

In Los Angeles, two recent deaths are being investigated for links to swine flu.

In Washington, US President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $1.5 billion in emergency funds to fight the illness, and a swine flu update has been added to his daily intelligence briefing.

President Barack Obama has recommended to public health officials that schools with confirmed or suspected cases of H1N1 should strongly consider temporarily closing “so that we can be as safe as possible,” he said.

“If the situation becomes more serious and we have to take more extensive steps, then parents should also think about contingency if schools in their areas do temporarily shut down,” Obama added.

US Homeland Security has reportedly sent a memo to health care providers noting procedures to be followed if the swine flu outbreak eventually makes quarantines necessary. In addition, top government health officials have added to the anxiety by estimating the potential number of deaths that could arise from the swine flu virus outbreak.

Unfortunately, one child has been already confirmed dead due to swine flu.