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

May 6, 2009

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

On Tuesday the State Health Department's (DOH) Wadsworth Laboratories performed tests on recently obtained specimens from 20 individuals outside of New York City. The tests resulted in no new confirmed cases of H1N1. Specimens from six of the 20 individuals were positive for seasonal influenza A, again indicating that there continue to be cases of seasonal influenza in New York State.

As of Wednesday morning, a total of 97 confirmed cases of H1N1 have been identified in New York State, including 80 confirmed cases in New York City and 17 confirmed cases in counties outside of New York City. This includes the six probable cases New York City reported on Tuesday that have now been confirmed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Two probable cases in Westchester County we reported on Tuesday continue to await CDC confirmation. New York City has one additional probable case.

Testing on New York City specimens continues to be conducted by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH). As of Wednesday, NYCDOHMH had not yet been granted independent testing status, although that approval is expected soon. Their results will continue to be listed as probable until CDC confirmation.

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

Overall, to date Wadsworth Laboratories has tested specimens from 199 individuals. Of those, 17 were confirmed for H1N1, 44 were confirmed as seasonal influenza, and 138 were negative for any kind of influenza.

As Governor Paterson has noted, the outbreak of H1N1 in New York State continues to involve mild to moderate symptoms similar to seasonal flu. The continued mildness of the virus is reflected in revised CDC guidance issued Tuesday recommending against school closure as a result of a confirmed case in the school.

Since New York State is not seeing an increase in the severity of illness, and the symptoms of H1N1 continue to be similar to seasonal flu, DOH will begin moving in the direction of monitoring and reporting on the virus as it does for seasonal influenza. As with ordinary seasonal influenza, county and private laboratories shortly will begin testing specimens for H1N1, as they receive diagnostic test kits and guidance from CDC.

Additional testing of specimens obtained at various time points in the outbreak will be performed and reported by Wadsworth and other laboratories. For example, on Monday Wadsworth Laboratories received approximately 100 specimens from the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System (North Shore-LIJ) laboratory for confirmatory testing. These are specimens collected about a week ago that underwent preliminary testing at North Shore-LIJ. The specimens are believed to relate mostly to the outbreak at St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens.

DOH expects to release a number of new confirmatory results from this batch in the coming days. It is important to note that these are older specimens collected from the early part of last week. As these cases are confirmed and county of residence verified, DOH will report the results. At this point, the county may report on some of them before DOH has updated the statewide statistics.

I want to emphasize that we no longer need to conduct surveillance to determine the existence of the virus in various regions of the state. At this point, it is more important in terms of a clinical perspective to identify overall trends and patterns, including watching for more severe illness. To date, in New York State there has been no severe illness associated with the H1N1 virus.

Seasonal influenza cases in New York State are reported weekly, broken down by county. As DOH moves toward monitoring the H1N1 virus more like seasonal influenza, it is anticipated that reporting of H1N1 cases likely will begin to shift from a daily to a weekly basis.

Updated CDC guidelines to schools issued yesterday reflect this shift, advising schools to treat cases of H1N1 as they would seasonal flu. In keeping with that guidance, previously closed schools in Onondaga, Oswego, and Westchester counties and in Queens reopened today. Schools closed in Suffolk County are preparing for possible reopening on Monday.

The Governor has again expressed his appreciation for the very responsible way in which schools have made decisions in consultation with their local health department, DOH and the State Education Department. At the Governor's request, State Education Commissioner Richard Mills and I will continue to keep local school and health officials updated on any changes to the guidelines.

Over the last day, the toll-free hotline the Governor asked DOH to establish has answered questions and addressed concerns from more than 275 New Yorkers. New Yorkers with questions about swine flu can call the DOH's hotline at 1-800-808-1987. New York City residents should call 311.

Because we have entered a new phase in the State's response to this outbreak, the Governor has asked that in the future we discontinue daily media briefings and instead provides updates when there are important new developments.

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