State Sens. Hit St. Francis For Swine Flu Briefing

Thomas K. Duane

May 01, 2009

State Sens. Hit St. Francis For Swine Flu Briefing

CBS-Health officials are getting a better look at the swine flu strain that is hitting our area, and they say it appears to be a less aggressive strain than the one that hit Mexico.

According to the Associated Press, the H1N1 strain is now in 19 states, with 146 confirmed cases.

50 of those cases are here in New York, while five are in New Jersey.

St. Francis Preparatory School, the first location in the Tri-State where cases were confirmed as swine flu, is still closed.

But that didn't stop a trio of New York State Senators from confidently walking into the Catholic high school Friday morning for a briefing with health officials.

NY Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, flanked by state Sens. Toby Ann Stavisky and Tom Duane, joined the NYC Health Department at the school to speak about the swine flu outbreak.

The latest update?

A total of five schools – all in New York City – including St. Francis remain closed as a result of the swine flu outbreak.

And only now are heath officials beginning to understand what they're dealing with: a new H1N1 strain of the virus that isn't affecting victims here as seriously as it is in Mexico.

"I'm happy to report that the NYC Health Department has told me that the 45 confirmed cases at St. Francis are looking very good, [and] the students are recovering," Brother Leonard Conway, principal of St. Francis, says.

Conway says workers have made a "full scrub-down" of the school including opening doors and windows to allow fresh air to circulate and flushing the air conditioning system.

"This is something that most people, when they get it, their bodies are designed to counteract it," Mayor Michael Bloomberg says. "They will come out of it just fine."

That optimistic outlook hasn't discouraged nervous parents from pulling their students out of class when they deem it necessary – as many did Thursday at P.S. 21 in Queens.

The encouraging words from local and state health officials and Mayor Bloomberg also don't mesh perfectly with what's coming out of the Centers for Disease Control.

CDC officials maintain they're still learning from this new strain of the virus, adding it's still very possible the outbreak could produce much more serious cases.