Statement from Richard F. Daines, M.D., Commissioner

Press Briefing: May 2, 2009

Governor Paterson's leadership has been invaluable in this evolving H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak in New York. As a result, New York is leading the nation in our response to this outbreak.

The Governor's decision last weekend to activate the State's health emergency preparedness plan has allowed us to act swiftly to monitor, identify and treat cases of H1N1 in New York State.

Yesterday, the Department of Health's Wadsworth Laboratories tested 43 specimens from 43 individuals, which included three repeat tests from the previous day. Three of those specimens tested probable for H1N1, including two from Suffolk County and one from Westchester County.

It is important to note that these three new probable cases have epidemiological links to Mexico – either they or those with whom they are in close contact traveled to that country.

Of the 43 specimens tested yesterday, five were positive for seasonal influenza and 33 were negative for any type of influenza. Two were inconclusive and will require additional testing.

To date, we have tested a total of 137 specimens from counties outside of New York City; 93 were negative for H1N1; 29 were positive for seasonal flu and 16 were probable for H1N1. Wadsworth Laboratories tested all but one of those specimens.

The 16 probable cases include:

  • three in Nassau County;
  • four in Suffolk County;
  • two in Westchester County;
  • three in Orange County; and
  • one each in Cortland, Chautauqua, Monroe and Lewis counties.

As of Friday evening, there were 79 confirmed or probable cases in New York City.

We are still waiting for validation by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the accuracy of the specimen testing performed by Wadsworth Laboratories. Once we have that, New York will no longer need to send specimens to CDC for confirmatory testing. Our Wadsworth Laboratories will perform confirmatory testing for H1N1.

It is important to note that the individuals affected are recovering and symptoms have been mild to moderate.

The impact on schools is of great concern. Yesterday, the Governor spoke with Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from the Department of Health and Human Services and CDC Acting Director Richard E. Besser, M.D., about the new guidelines for school and child care facility closure when there is a laboratory confirmed case of H1N1.

The guidelines expand the duration of closing to up to 14 days to allow the virus to complete its course before students return to school. When students are dismissed, all related gatherings also should be cancelled, and parents and students should avoid congregating in large numbers outside of school settings. These decisions should be made locally by schools in consultation with local health officials.

Guidelines were sent to schools around the state yesterday. Both the state Health and Education Departments will continue to provide schools with updated information.

The Department is providing outreach materials for migrant worker communities to encourage proper respiratory and hand hygiene. This is a particularly vulnerable community during this outbreak.

Our migrant health workgroup is working to assure that these workers have full access to any needed services. In addition, our border health group is in daily contact with our tribal nations, provincial groups in Canada and CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.

The hotline Governor Paterson asked us to establish has answered questions and addressed concerns from more than 5,702 New Yorkers. For questions about swine flu, call the Department's hotline at 1-800-808-1987. New York City residents should call 311. Resources are available at www.nyhealth.gov/swineflu .