Officials Declare Public Health Emergency Over Flu Virus

By
St. Francis Prep, the Queens school where eight students were diagnosed with the strain of influenza called "swine flu."
Photo: Wikipedia.com

Wasn't this a lovely weekend? Sure, here in New York we seem to have skipped directly from April Showers to July Sunburns, but at least you could wear shorts. What did you do this weekend? Did you and your boyfriend wait for an extra hour to get a seat outside at one of your favorite restaurants? Did you sit outside in the park with your friend Julie's dog, lolling around with a book and a beer? Maybe your friend Martin had a barbecue on his roof deck, and you made some new lesbian friends. It seemed like everybody in New York was doing that sort of thing this weekend. You know what everybody else was doing this weekend? CONVINCING THEMSELVES THAT WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE OF SWINE FLU.

Here's the latest: The Department of Homeland Security (yipes!) declared a public emergency yesterday over the rising numbers of people diagnosed with Swine Flu A (H1N1). This is actually less scary than it sounds — as Janet Napolitano explained, it's really just what needs to happens in order to release emergency funds to prepare for any eventuality. In fact, here and around the world, the efficiency of these responses is a testament to what international health organizations learned from the SARS epidemic. So far, the World Health Organization is holding off from declaring swine flu a pandemic.

According to the Times, a seemingly identical strain of the flu that has killed over 80 people in Mexico City has been found in 7 people in California, 2 in Kansas, 2 in Texas, and 1 in Ohio. That's on top of the eight confirmed cases in Queens, among students at St. Francis Prep — where the school has been shut down for top-to-bottom cleaning and nearly 140 boys and girls are reporting flulike symptoms. Of the documented cases, none have been fatal, and only one victim even had to go to the hospital before recovering. All but one of the victims had traveled to Mexico recently. It's not yet known why cases there have been so much more damaging — but it could relate to the length of time it has had to spread.

New York City has set up a hotline for people with questions about swine flu: 800-808-1987. Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg urged people who feel flulike symptoms to stay home from school or work and call a doctor. And don't panic! Go back to thinking about the lovely weather — it'll be the weekend again soon.

U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency Over Swine Flu [NYT]
SWINE SHOCK A NATIONAL ALARM [NYP]