Increase in Swine Flu Cases, Outbreak Remains Mild

Church officials in Brooklyn are closing Saint Brigid\

Church officials in Brooklyn are closing Saint Brigid\'s School because a student is sick and has a sibling at Saint Francis. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

New York City now has 49 confirmed swine flu cases, up from 44 yesterday, with two new probable cases. But City Health Commissioner Dr.Thomas Frieden says the outbreak here remains a mild one.

“Despite hundreds and hundreds of cases likely, we have not identified severe flu. That means up till now this virus is acting the same way seasonal flu acts.”

All of the cases are associated either with the outbreak at Saint Francis Prep in Queens, which will remain closed all week, or with recent travel to Mexico. Public School 177, which is close to Saint Francis, will also remain closed, after several people there became ill.

State Health Commissioner Dr, Richard Daines says that one known swine flu death in the U.S. — that of a Mexican toddler visiting Texas – should be put into context:

“Just to remind everyone, every year, due to our seasonal influenza, we have pediatric deaths in NY. eight cases in 2007-2008 season, and seven cases to date in our normal seasonal outbreak.”

Daines says the state has identified three probable swine flu cases in Suffolk, Orange and Cortland Counties. He says the same batch of tests also identified six cases of the seasonal flu strain that’s been going around this season. He says it’s likely that people who feel “flu-ey” have garden-variety flu, and not the H1N1 strain.

Karen DeWitt reports from Albany that concerns about swine flu are affecting the travel plans of Senate Democratic Majority Leader Malcolm Smith.

Senator Smith had planned to accompany members of the newly-formed senate Latino Caucus on a trip to Puerto Rico on Thursday, but now says he’s staying home because he’s worried about his family. Smith’s daughter attends St. Francis. Smith says she’s under the weather, and wife is suffering mild symptoms.

“I should be closer to them. God forbid their condition gets worse while I’m away. I would never forgive myself.”

Smith says his wife is taking Tamiflu, and he has no reason to think they’ll become sicker.

Local, state and federal health officials are urging people not to stock up or use Tamiflu, unless they’re very sick. So far, almost all cases in New York have been relatively mild.