School outbreak creates panic in New York City - Health News - Health & Families - The Independent

School outbreak creates panic in New York City

More than 100 suspected cases linked to trip

A middle-aged priest who wears monastic robes and runs New York's biggest Catholic school became the face of America's mounting panic over the spread of swine flu yesterday, after it emerged that hundreds of his pupils could have fallen ill from the disease.

Brother Leonard Conway, the head of St Francis Preparatory School in Queens, spent the day double-checking that cleaning crews had left no desk unwiped and no classroom floor unscrubbed in their efforts to decontaminate the 150-year-old school, which recently sent a small group of students on a Spring Break trip to the Mexican beach resort of Cancun.

Doctors have confirmed that at least 27 pupils, together with one teacher, have contracted the virus in recent days. But hundreds of others are currently confined to beds, many of them wearing surgical masks, after being suspected of having also fallen ill.

St Francis, which has 2,700 students, is currently closed indefinitely. The New York Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, announced on Tuesday that, "many hundreds of pupils are ill, with symptoms that are most likely swine flu... It is here, and it is spreading."

"We believed that there were probably more than 100 cases of swine flu at the school, and lab tests are confirming what we suspected," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "We are dealing with a single cluster of swine-flu cases."

Worryingly, the virus seems to be affecting students who did not travel to Mexico, suggesting that it is being transferred from person to person. It may even have spread to a nearby school where many St Francis students have siblings, which decided to close its doors after nearly 80 pupils phoned in sick.

The outbreak may have started weeks ago. Reports suggested that long lines of students had appeared outside the school nurse's office shortly after the pupils returned from Cancun. The scale of the outbreak has led to calls for all of the city's schools to be closed down.

Many "survivors" are contributing to public concern by hitting the airwaves. Rachel Mele, a 16-year-old from the school, saw her fever break sufficiently to allow her to speak to the Associated Press on Tuesday, five days after she was rushed to hospital with a temperature of 101F.

"I could barely even catch my breath. I've never felt a pain like that before," she said. "My throat, it was burning, like, it was the worst burning sensation I ever got before. I couldn't even swallow. I couldn't even let up air. I could barely breathe through my mouth."

Health officials say the way the flu has jumped to people who didn't travel confirms fears that the virus will be transmitted from humans to humans, as well as directly from pigs.

"There is definitely the possibility that this virus can establish that kind of community-wide outbreak capacity in multiple countries it's something we're looking for very closely," said Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general of the World Health Organisation.

He added that so-called "community" transmissions are a key test for gauging whether the spread of the virus has reached pandemic proportions.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

    £50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

    Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

    IT Systems Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

    £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week