Shuttered schools rebound after flu scare

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It was back to reading, writing and hand−sanitizing for three Brooklyn schools shuttered last week because of suspicion of swine flu.

Rev. Kieran Harrington, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, said that while not confirmed, it is “presumptive” that the flu strain sickened students at two Catholic grammar schools, Good Shepherd on Brown Street in Marine Park and St. Brigid on Grove Street in Bushwick.

This week, Harrington said all the sick students are recovering.

The city’s Department of Health (DOH) said it did not recommend the schools close, but Harrington stood by the Catholic schools’ decision. “When you are dealing with students on the ground, the primary concern is the safety and security of students,” he said. He insisted the schools did not overreact. “The fact is, we took appropriate precaution to ensure the safety and well−being of children in our school.”

Bishop Kearney High School on 60th Street in Bensonhurst was also among the shuttered. “Some of our students might have had contact with victims of this disease. For that reason and as a precautionary measure we have decided to close Bishop Kearney for Thursday and Friday,” Kearney officials said in a statement, according to a report. A Bishop Kearney student diagnosed with influenza has a sibling who attends Good Shepherd, prompting the decision to shut down the school for two days, Harrington noted.

Harrington said an eighth−grader at Good Shepherd recently presented flu−like symptoms and was tested at a local hospital. It was determined that the student — who has a sibling who recently traveled to Cancun — had influenza. Subsequently, eight other students came down with influenza, and last Wednesday, school principal Anthony Paparelli, along with pastors, decided to close the school.

At St. Brigid, Harrington continued, a sixth−grader was also diagnosed with influenza; the student has a sibling who attends St. Francis Prep in Queens, where 28 swine flu cases have been confirmed. A group of students from St. Francis recently returned from a trip to Mexico, where confirmed swine flu is blamed in 19 deaths and sickening almost 500 people.

At press time, New York City has 73 confirmed cases and six cases pending confirmation, according to the Department of Health. Most of the sick have suffered only minor illnesses, according to the agency.

“We have looked daily at every hospital and every intensive care unit in the city within the past 10 days,” said DOH Commissioner Thomas Frieden, “and we have yet to find a single patient with severe illness from H1N1,” he noted, referring to the particular viral strain commonly known as swine flu.

The DOH said it followed up on all the suspected Brooklyn cases, and has yet to confirm the sickness was caused by swine flu.

While typically rare in humans, swine flu is thought to be the predominant strain of influenza in New York City right now, according to Frieden. Symptoms seem to resemble those of seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting as well. Eating pork or pork products cannot spread swine flu.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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