Swine flu fears close schools in NY, Texas, Calif.

Apr 27, 2009 By KAREN MATTHEWS , Associated Press Writer
Brother Leonard Conway, Principal of St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens borough of New York, comments on Sunday April 26, 2009 about the closing of the school at the urging of Board of Health officials after tests confirmed that eight students at a private Catholic high school had contracted swine flu. Some of the school's students had visited Mexico on a spring break trip two weeks ago. (AP Photo/Rick Maim)

(AP) -- Esti Lamonaca's illness started with a high fever, a cough and achy bones, just a couple of days after she returned from a spring break trip on the beach in Cancun with friends. By the weekend, her voice was hoarse and she was wearing a surgical mask.

The 18-year-old senior is one of at least eight students at her New York City high school who health officials say have been sickened by a strain of suspected in the deaths of 103 people in Mexico. It has now spread to the United States, where authorities have confirmed 20 cases.

However, all of those sickened in the U.S. have recovered or are recovering. That's a stark difference from the lethal outbreak in Mexico that authorities can't yet explain.

Officials at Lamonaca's school, St. Francis Preparatory in Queens, learned that something was wrong there on Thursday when students started lining up at the nurse's office complaining of fever, nausea, sore throats and achy bones. It wasn't long before the line was out the door.

The nurse notified the city Health Department that day. On Friday, more students were getting sick, and the department dispatched a team to the school at about 1:30 p.m. But they got caught in traffic and didn't arrive until 3:30 p.m, just as classes were letting out for the weekend, said Brother Leonard Conway, the school's principal.

By then, there were only a few students left, and health officials quickly tested them for swine flu. While only eight cases are confirmed, more than 100 students are suspected to have been infected. Officials think they started getting sick after some students returned from the spring break trip to Cancun.

The U.S. government declared a Sunday to respond to the outbreak, which also has sickened people in Kansas, California, Texas and Ohio. Many of them had recently visited Mexico. Roughly 12 million doses of the will be moved from a federal stockpile to places where states can quickly get their share if they decide they need it, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

Cleaning crews spent Sunday scrubbing down St. Francis, which will be closed for days.

"I haven't been out of my house since Wednesday and am just hoping to make a full recovery soon," Lamonaca said. "I am glad school is closed because it supposedly is very contagious, and I don't want this to spread like it has in Mexico."

Some schools in Texas and California also were closing after students were found or suspected to have the flu.

The has people on edge across the country.

Officials along the U.S.-Mexico border asked health care providers to take respiratory samples from patients who appear to have the flu. Travelers were being asked if they visited flu-stricken areas.

In San Diego, signs posted at border crossings, airports and other transportation hubs advised people to "cover your cough." At Los Angeles International Airport, Alba Velez, 43, and her husband Enrique, 46, were wearing blue face masks - purely as a precaution - when they returned from a trip to Mexico.

The Los Angeles couple hadn't seen anyone sick while in Guadalajara but were nervous because of the stream of information about new cases. The two were wearing the masks because they're "just cautious," Enrique Velez said.

It was a different story for travelers heading south of the border.

"I'm worried," said Sergio Ruiz, 42, who checked in for a flight to Mexico City after a business trip to Los Angeles and planned to stay inside when he got home. "I'm going to stay there and not do anything."

In Ohio, a 9-year-old boy was infected with the same strain suspected of killing dozens in Mexico, authorities said. The third-grader had visited several Mexican cities on a family vacation, said Clifton Barnes, spokesman for the Lorain County Emergency Management Agency.

"He went to a fair, he went to a farm, he went to visit family around Mexico," Barnes said.

The boy has a mild case and is recovering at home in northern Ohio, authorities said.

In New York, Jackie Casola - whose son Robert Arifo is a sophomore at St. Francis - said her son told her a number of students had been sent home sick Thursday and hardly anyone was in school Friday.

Arifo hasn't shown any symptoms, but some of his friends have, his mother said. And she has been extra vigilant about his health.

"I must have drove him crazy - I kept taking his temperature in the middle of the night," she said.

---

Associated Press writers Josh Hoffner, Jennifer Peltz and Deepti Hajela in New York, Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles, Michelle Roberts in San Antonio and Meghan Barr in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Duncan kin, some at hospital near end of Ebola isolation

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NYC mayor says 28 swine flu cases from 1 school

Apr 26, 2009

(AP) -- Twenty-eight students at a private New York City high school have confirmed cases of swine flu and 17 more probably have it, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday. City officials sought to distinguish ...

Mexico City closes museums to stop flu outbreak

Apr 24, 2009

(AP) -- Mexico's federal government has closed museums, libraries, and state-run theaters as well as schools in its overcrowded capital to stop a swine flu outbreak authorities say may have killed as many ...

Mexico on edge as reports of swine flu cases climb

Apr 26, 2009

(AP) -- A new strain of swine flu has this metropolis of 20 million people increasingly fearful as suspected flu deaths grow, and world health officials warn that Mexico City could be at the epicenter of ...

Asia on alert after flu threat spreads

Apr 26, 2009

Asian health officials went on alert Sunday as a flu strain that has killed dozens of people in Mexico appeared to have spread to New Zealand, underscoring warnings of a potential pandemic.

Mexico City suspends schools over flu epidemic

Apr 24, 2009

(AP) -- Mexico City closed schools across the metropolis of 20 million Friday after at least 16 people died and more than 900 others fall ill from what health officials suspect is a new strain of swine flu. World health ...

Recommended for you

EU tackles Ebola response

38 minutes ago

European Union foreign ministers thrashed out measures to help halt Ebola's deadly spread on Monday, as Nigeria—Africa's most populous country—was expected to be declared free of the disease.

User comments : 0