City health officials are investigating a possible new cluster of swine flu at P.S. 177 in Queens – a school for autistic children grades 1 through 12 – near St. Francis Preparatory, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during an afternoon press briefing on Tuesday, April 28.
Bloomberg said that on Tuesday P.S. 177, also known as The Robin Sue Ward School For Exceptional Children, had 80 of the 380 students at the school call out sick, and 12 students who reported a fever are currently being tested for swine flu.
“Because it is a special needs school our ability to reduce the spread of infections there is much more limited,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg said that a student at P.S. 177 has a sibling who attends St. Francis Prep, and P.S. 177 will be closed on Wednesday, April 29.
Meanwhile, officials said about 45 students tested positive for the swine flu at St. Francis Prep, but Bloomberg said the city has stopped doing swine flu tests St. Francis Prep students because hundreds of students have filled out questionnaires reporting the same symptoms. Bloomberg said he wouldn’t be surprised if more than 100 students had this strain of the flu, but the city would test anyone at the school or outside of the school who reported serious symptoms.
“Our focus now is to look what’s happening citywide and take whatever measures we can to reduce the spread,” Bloomberg said.
During a conference call with reporters around 3 p.m., on Tuesday, St. Francis Prep Principal Brother Leonard Conway said it was school officials, not the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), who decided to close the school for the rest of the week.
“We’re hoping and praying that this thing will pass quickly,” Conway said, adding that he hopes to get the students back into the classrooms on Monday.
However, he also stressed to parents that“if the child is still not feeling well on Monday, they should not send their child to school.”
While Bloomberg said that the city is continuing to monitor the swine flu very carefully, right now it is acting like every other traditional strain of flu.
“No one should be afraid to go about their day, to go to work, to go to their school, to go to their park,” Bloomberg said. “So far, this disease looks like the one we have every year.”