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

May 4, 2009

Governor Paterson asked me to coordinate a statewide response to H1N1 swine flu. For 10 days we have been holding daily briefings to update you on our latest activities and the most recent information concerning the outbreak.

Yesterday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) granted New York State independent testing status for the H1N1 virus, validating the testing conducted by the New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Laboratories since April 28.

With CDC validation, all cases of H1N1 tested by Wadsworth Laboratories previously reported as "probable" are now considered confirmed cases. As a result, 16 previously reported probable cases in the State outside of New York City are now confirmed cases of H1N1.

Yesterday, Wadsworth Laboratories performed tests on four specimens from four patients, including two repeat tests. The tests resulted in no new cases of H1N1. The relatively low number of specimens for testing on Sunday was expected due to reduced weekend deliveries.

Overall, as of this morning, a total of 90 confirmed cases of H1N1 have been identified in New York State, including 73 confirmed cases in New York City and 17 confirmed cases in counties outside of New York City, which include: three cases in Nassau County; four cases in Suffolk County; two cases in Westchester County; three cases in Orange County; and one case each in Onondaga, Cortland, Chautauqua, Monroe, and Lewis counties.

There are also six probable cases in New York City, where testing on specimens continues to be conducted by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH). As of earlier today, the NYCDOHMH had not yet received notification from CDC that it has been granted independent testing status, although that approval is expected some time this week.

As Governor Paterson has noted, most cases of H1N1 in New York State appear to have a connection with Mexico. The individuals affected in New York so far are recovering, and symptoms have been mild to moderate.

The outbreak continues to affect several schools in New York State. The Ed Smith School in Syracuse is the most recent school to close as a result of a new case announced Sunday involving a student at that school.

Across the state, six schools or school districts have temporarily closed in Queens and in Onondaga, Suffolk, and Chautauqua counties. St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens reopened today after being closed for one week.

CDC released new guidance Saturday for closing schools for up to 14 days to allow the virus to complete its course before students return to school. When schools are closed, all related gatherings should also be cancelled, and parents and students should avoid congregating in large numbers outside of school settings.

Decisions on school closures should continue to be made locally by schools in consultation with local health officials. As directed by Governor Paterson, State Education Commissioner Richard Mills and I continue to update schools with the latest information. We will update the guidelines to schools to reflect the most recent CDC changes made over the weekend, and we will continue to provide updates if there are additional changes in school guidance.

The Department is preparing to deliver supplies of antiviral medicines to counties requesting these supplies. CDC has provided the State with 25 percent of our allotment of the strategic national stockpile of Tamiflu. The Department is beginning to deploy a portion of these 400,000 treatment courses to local health departments to ensure that the supply will be quickly accessible if the situation changes.

To date, the toll-free H1N1 (swine flu) hotline Governor Paterson asked us to establish beginning Sunday, April 26, has answered questions and addressed concerns from more than 6,000 New Yorkers, including more than 150 new calls received over the last day. The hotline is 1-800-808-1987. New York City residents should call 311. Resources are also available at www.nyhealth.gov/swineflu.