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

May 5, 2009

Governor Paterson asked me to coordinate a statewide response to H1N1 swine flu.

On Monday, the State Health Department's Wadsworth Laboratories performed tests on 18 specimens from 18 patients, including one repeat test from Sunday.

The tests resulted in one new confirmed case of H1N1, which involves an individual who resides in Queens.

As of this morning, a total of 91 confirmed cases of H1N1 have been identified in New York State. This total includes 74 confirmed cases in New York City and a total of 17 confirmed cases in counties outside New York City.

There are an additional six probable cases in New York City and two probable cases in Westchester County. The two Westchester probable cases were tested in a Connecticut laboratory, which like New York City's laboratory, has not yet been approved for confirmatory testing.

The county-by-county breakdown of confirmed cases of H1N1 outside New York City continues to be the same as yesterday. That breakdown can be viewed on the graphic of the map on the Department's H1N1 Web site page at www.nyhealth.gov.

In the coming days, additional laboratories in New York State will begin confirmatory testing of patient specimens for H1N1. Additional specimens collected over the last 10 days may be processed and reported by any of the approved laboratories.

As Governor Paterson has said, New York State has the best disease surveillance system in the nation. As we go forward, surveillance of H1N1 in New York State will be more about monitoring the extent and boundaries of this outbreak rather than looking at precise numbers. The numbers by themselves will not be a good indication of the prevalence of H1N1 in the State, as generally the Department does not recommend testing now for H1N1 for individuals with mild flu symptoms. For clinical purposes it is only necessary to confirm the presence of H1N1 in individuals who are experiencing severe flu symptoms.

Overall, to date the Wadsworth Laboratories has tested specimens from a total of 179 patients. Of those specimens, 17 were confirmed H1N1, 38 were confirmed as seasonal influenza, and 124 were negative for any kind of influenza.

As Governor Paterson has noted, to date most cases of H1N1 in New York State appear to have a connection with Mexico. The individuals affected in New York State continue to recover, and symptoms from H1N1 continue to be mild to moderate.

In regard to school closures, the Sandy Creek School District in Oswego County closed Tuesday and Wednesday because of a suspected case of H1N1. Rye Country Day School in Westchester County announced closure for two weeks starting today because of two probable cases of H1N1 that have been tested at a lab in Connecticut.

In addition, specific schools or school districts continue to be temporarily closed in Queens and in Onondaga and Suffolk counties. A previously closed school district in Chautauqua County reopened today.

Governor Paterson has expressed his appreciation for the very responsible decisions being made by schools in a very rapidly changing situation.

As we had anticipated, today the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued revised Guidance on School Closures. With the modified policy issued today, CDC no longer recommends that communities with a laboratory-confirmed case of H1N1 influenza consider adopting school dismissal or child care closure measures. Rather, in line with policies being undertaken in Seattle, New York and Canada, CDC has modified its policy to recommend implementation of measures that focus on keeping all students, faculty and staff with symptoms of influenza out of schools and child care facilities during their period of illness and recuperation, when they are potentially infectious to others.

Governor Paterson has asked that Commissioner Richard Mills of the State Education Department and I keep schools updated. We will continue to update these guidelines and communicate them to local school and health authorities. With these changing guidelines, any decision to reopen schools should be made at the local level in consultation with the Department and the State Education Department.

Governor Paterson has asked the Department to take the precautionary measure of ensuring that supplies of antiviral medicines are available to local health agencies should the situation change and these supplies be needed. On Wednesday the Department will begin shipping supplies of antiviral medicines to counties requesting them. So far, 51 of the 57 counties outside of New York City have requested shipments of Tamiflu and masks. Previously, the Department shipped 1,500 treatment courses to New York City to add to its supply.

CDC has provided New York State with 25 percent of its allotment of the Strategic National Stockpile of Tamiflu.

Over the last day, the toll-free hotline Governor Paterson asked us to establish has answered questions and addressed concerns from more than 175 New Yorkers. New Yorkers with questions about swine flu can call the Department's hotline at 1-800-808-1987. New York City residents should call 311.

More information and resources are available on the Department's Web site at www.nyhealth.gov/swineflu.