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

Press Briefing: May 3, 2009

Governor Paterson's leadership has been invaluable in this evolving H1N1 outbreak in New York. Our city and county health departments have also been on the front lines of this epidemic, tracking and investigating suspected cases. 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 emergency preparedness plan has allowed us to act swiftly to monitor, identify, and treat cases of H1N1 in New York State. This is where we stand today:

Saturday night we tested specimens from an additional 23 individuals and identified one new probable case of H1N1 in Onondaga County. The Onondaga County case has links to the St. Francis school outbreak in Queens, as the individual had recently spent time with a person related to the Queens outbreak.

Today's new probable case in Onondaga County is in addition to the three new probable cases we announced Saturday in Suffolk and Westchester counties. Thankfully, all of these individuals continue to have mild to moderate symptoms.

In addition to the one new probable case we announced today, testing of specimens from 23 patients at our Wadsworth Center laboratory on Saturday also revealed one case positive for ordinary seasonal influenza and 19 specimens that were negative for any type of influenza. Testing on two specimens was inconclusive and will be repeated.

This brings our total number of probable and confirmed cases in New York State to 96 cases. All of the cases outside New York City except one were tested at our Wadsworth Laboratories.

Total H1N1 (swine flu) cases in New York State as of Saturday night are:

  • 79 confirmed or probable cases in New York City
  • three cases in Nassau County
  • four in Suffolk
  • two in Westchester
  • three in Orange
  • and one case each in Cortland, Onondaga, Chautauqua, Monroe, and Lewis counties.

It's significant that we have a case from a small, relatively remote county like Lewis. This demonstrates that New Yorkers everywhere are on alert for signs of this virus, and our local health agencies are doing an excellent job tracking and reporting cases.

To date, we have tested specimens from a total of 158 patients from counties outside of New York City. Of these patient specimens, 112 were negative for H1N1 swine flu, 30 were positive for ordinary seasonal flu; and 17 were probable for H1N1 (swine flu). One of these 17 cases was tested at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in connection with the Queens school outbreak.

The Department is still waiting for validation by CDC of the accuracy of the specimen testing performed by the Wadsworth Laboratories. Once we have that, New York no longer will need to send specimens to CDC for confirmatory testing, as confirmatory testing for H1N1 influenza will be performed in Wadsworth Laboratory.

To provide a brief update on school closings, two of the new probable cases we reported Saturday are students at John F. Kennedy Intermediate School in Deer Park, Suffolk County. I have spoken with Suffolk County Health Services Commissioner Dr. Humayun J. Chaudhry, who told me that all of the schools in that district will be closed for at least seven days.

As Governor Paterson mentioned, the CDC released new guidance on Saturday for closing schools for 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. As Governor Paterson mentioned, he asked Commissioner Mills of the Education Department and I to keep the schools updated. We will update the guidelines to schools to reflect the changes the CDC made yesterday.

Over the last day, the Department's H1N1 hotline that Governor Paterson asked us to establish received another 124 calls – bringing the total to 5,826 callers since the hotline began last Sunday morning.

That number again is 1-800-808-1987. New York City residents should call 311.

As Governor Paterson and I said previously, we will continue to keep New Yorkers updated as more information becomes available.