City continues to track swine flu as second death suspected

By Jason Fink

As the city health department investigates the death of a 16-month-old boy in Queens from suspected swine flu, officials Tuesday expressed some concern about the pace with which the illness is spreading, particularly this late in the season.

“It seems to spread a little bit more rapidly than the garden variety” flu, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Still, despite what appears to be two deaths, Bloomberg and other officials stressed that the swine flu has been less virulent than seasonal influenza, which kills between 1,000 and 2,000 New Yorkers every season.An assistant principal in Queens died from swine flu on Sunday.

Bloomberg said warmer weather and the upcoming three-day weekend, when schools are out and many offices closed, could help slow the spread.

On Tuesday, a private school in Riverdale, Horace Mann, announced it would close until after Memorial Day, bringing to 18 the number of schools that have canceled classes because of the virus.

Officials also said there are four confirmed and four suspected cases among inmates at Rikers Island.

“We will continue to experience outbreaks periodically,” said Bloomberg. “It is still unknown and unpredictable.”

Hospital visits in Queens, where most of the cases have been, have shot up by 50 percent among adults and 100 percent among children, according to Alan Aviles, president of the city Health and Hospitals Corp. The vast majority of those, he said, were mild illnesses and did not require hospitalization.

Tags: public health , swine flu

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