St. Francis Preparatory to reopen Monday after flu outbreak

St. Francis Preparatory School will open on Monday, May 4 after closing for a week because of the H1N1 virus, school and health officials announced on Friday.

The Fresh Meadows school was the site of the outbreak of the H1N1 virus last week when hundreds of students became ill with flu-like symptoms, prompting the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to get involved.

"It is perfectly safe to open on Monday," said Queens City Councilmember David Weprin, who met with St. Francis Prep School officials and other legislators on Friday to discuss whether or not to reopen the school Monday. Weprin said that everything in the school has been sanitized, and the gestation period for the virus is pretty much over.

As of Friday May 1, city health officials announced that there were 49 confirmed cases and 33 probably cases throughout the five boroughs with the overwhelming majority of the cases having a connection to St. Francis or Mexico – where authorities believe the virus originated. Several St. Francis Prep students went on a trip to Cancun, Mexico during their spring break so it is possible that the students carried the virus back with them.

Meanwhile, authorities are learning more about the virus each day. On Friday, city health officials announced the findings of a survey that questioned St. Francis Prep students, faculty and staff about the strain of flu.

More than 1,000 St. Francis Prep community members who filled out the survey reported that they experienced flu-like symptoms since early April. A third of students developed symptoms with the numbers surging on Wednesday, April 22 – the day many at the school started feeling ill.

“Working together we can better understand H1N1 flu and find the most appropriate and effective ways to reduce its impact,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. “As we search for these answers, everyone can help stop the spread of flu by taking simple steps. Cover your mouths when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, and stay home if you come down with fever and a cough.”

Currently, Health Department officials believe that the H1N1 flu resembles that of the seasonal flu that affects thousands of New Yorkers every year. However, the DOHMH will continue monitoring the cases and will provide further updates as they become available.

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