UPDATE: 28 students at St. Francis Prep have swine flu

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Twenty-eight students at St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens tested positive for the swine flu – a potentially deadly form of the flu that has already killed upwards of 100 people in Mexico – and 17 other students are likely to have the disease, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference at City Hall on Monday afternoon.

Bloomberg stressed that the St. Francis Prep outbreak was the only cluster of swine flu in the city and so far, the city is not seeing a situation comparable to that in Mexico where more than 100 people have reportedly died from the disease.

“Nearly all of the St. Francis Prep students with the swine flu are improving and none of them that we know are getting worse,” Bloomberg said on Monday afternoon, April 27.

The outbreak began at the Queens school late last week after more than 100 students reportedly began experiencing flu-like symptoms including a fever and sore throat, and formed long lines at the nurses office seeking treatment. Bloomberg and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Tom Frieden said the number of students at St. Francis Prep with swine flu could increase to over 100 as more students get tested.

The DOHMH is currently receiving responses from students at the school in the form of a questionnaire emailed out to all of the students, faculty and staff.

On the night of Sunday, April 26, there were 20 confirmed cases of swine flu in five states spread throughout the country causing President Barack Obama to declare a national health emergency.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs, according to the CDC, and officials believe this current outbreak of swine flu originated in Mexico. About a dozen St. Francis Prep students recently traveled to Cancun, Mexico, but it is unclear if any of the students who traveled to the country are the ones who tested positive for the virus, according to reports.

St. Francis Prep has cancelled classes at the Fresh Meadows school for Monday, April 27 and Tuesday, April 28. It was unclear as of Monday morning if classes will resume on Wednesday.

The most effective way to lower the risk of influenza transmission is for people with symptoms to stay home and the city’s health department is urging all New Yorkers to cover their mouths when they cough.

In addition, the city’s health department listed these tips as additional precautions:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.

• Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to avoid infecting them.

• Swine influenza cannot be transmitted from eating pork or pork products.

For additional information on the swine flue, people can visit the city’s web site at www.nyc.gov or the CDC’s web site at http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/general_info.htm

Check back at www.queenscourier.com throughout the day and week for updates on this developing story, and read extensive coverage in The Queens Courier’s print edition on Thursday, April 30.