Queens School At Flu Epicenter Reopens

FILE- In this April 26, 2009 file photo, a student from St. Francis Prep in the Queens borough of New York, arrives with his father only to find that a regents review class has been canceled. St. Francis Prepratory School has become the site of the largest swine flu outbreak in the U.S. (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano, File) AP Photo/Louis Lanzano

Classes are back in session today at St. Francis Prep in Queens, New York - the school at the center of the U.S. outbreak - after being closed for one week.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to greet students and faculty as they arrive this morning.

The school was closed after an influenza outbreak - thought to have been brought into the community from students returning from spring break vacation in Mexico - sickened up to 1,000 people. There were 45 confirmed cases of H1N1 (swine) flu.

After a week of disinfecting, and recovering, students will be back to classes. Along with the books and school supplies, student Andrea Mayorga is packing something else: Caution.

"Definitely be more careful with the contact," she told CBS News Correspondent Bianca Solorzano. "I already bought a family pack of hand sanitizer."

Also reopening are three schools in Brooklyn. Newberry Academy in Newberry, S.C., which was closed last week after students fell ill following a trip to Mexico, was also reopening Monday.

But hundreds of schools across the country have shut their doors in response to the spreading virus that is typically infecting the young.

In Texas alone, the state's education agency reports 462 schools (including the entire Fort Worth School District) are closed, affecting nearly 300,000 students.

Ely Elementary School in Elyria, Ohio, will remain closed for a second week. A 9-year-old student - one of Ohio's three confirmed cases - is still recovering.

Several schools in Florida's Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Lee and Broward Counties will be closed at least through Wednesday because of several confirmed and probable cases of swine flu. And all 24 schools in a district west of Detroit were closed after a high school student came down with an apparent case of the illness.

Schools in Marshalltown, Iowa, and Deer Park, Long Island are closed until at least May 10.

As of this morning there were 247 confirmed cases of H1N1 in the U.S., in 30 States.

Yesterday, U.S. health officials said the median age being affected by this virus is just 17 years old. There's a chance that older people are not being as affected because of years of previous flu vaccinations.

And while the number of confirmed cases of H1N1 virus continues to rise across the country, officials are cautiously optimistic.

Appearing on CBS' The Early Show Monday, the acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Richard Besser, said he was not ready to say that the virus is in decline in the U.S., though he described the latest news as "encouraging."

"We're seeing this virus spread around the country," Dr. Besser told anchor Maggie Rodriguez. "And what we're seeing is an illness that looks very much like seasonal flu. But not to downplay seasonal flu. Each year, 36,000 people die from seasonal flu. But we're not seeing the type of severe disease that we were very worried about."

Dr. Besser said he anticipates seeing reports of the virus from every state, and repeated his expectation that there will be more deaths in the U.S. from the H1N1, which can affect people with underlying conditions. "It may be that this disease is starting first in children, and then will spread to the elderly," he said. "There's more that we don't know."

Dr. Besser did not think it was an overreaction on the part of school officials to close schools, even though the only U.S. death was of a 2-year-old child from Mexico. "We close schools to prevent transmission from children to children, but also to prevent spread in the community. As we learn, and see that this virus is not more severe than regular flu, an approach of, 'People who are sick stay home," becomes a more reasonable approach.

"As a pediatrician and as a parent, I know the best place for children is in school learning. But we need to balance that with health risks."

H1N1 Briefs

Around the globe this weekend, Canada reported the first known case of H1N1 passing from an infected human to pigs. Officials blame a worker who returned from Mexico.

On The Early Show, Dr. Besser asserted that the U.S. food supply is safe. "It may be that pigs have more to fear from people than people have to fear from pigs," he said. "What we're hearing from Canada was transmission from a person to a pig. The USDA is very carefully monitoring our pig and swine supply here and has not seen any disease in that population."

The U.S. Meat Export Federation, which represents pork and beef interests abroad, estimates that U.S. pork exports have dropped about 10 percent since the swine flu scare started.

Mexico has blasted Chinese authorities for quarantining more than 70 Mexican tourists, even those not at risk for the virus. In one case, a Mexican couple and their three small children were rousted from their hotel room at 4 a.m. and transported to a hospital. Beijing denies it is discriminating against Mexicans.

In Mexico - where the outbreak began, and where there are 25 confirmed deaths - health officials said the virus is in a "declining phase."




2009 H1N1 Flu Outbreak Map:
This is a map depicting confirmed and suspected cases of the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, with contributors from all over the world, from a variety of backgrounds including health, journalism, technology.


View 2009 H1N1 Flu Outbreak Map in a larger map
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