Published Online: May 18, 2009

Swine Flu Closes More N.Y.C. Schools, Spreads in Asia

The swine flu virus continued spreading in New York City — closing more schools and showing up in a jail — while the disease also reached further into Asia among travelers returning from the United States.

Internationally, Malaysia, India and Turkey have reported their first cases, all involving people who had traveled from the United States. They are in addition to the 36 other countries where the World Health Organization says more than 8,450 cases of the disease have been confirmed. The global death toll stood at 75.

Mexico said tests have confirmed two more deaths from swine flu, bringing the nation's toll to 68. Health officials say tests confirmed 207 more cases for a total of 3,102, including the deaths.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 4,700 confirmed and probable cases have been reported in 46 states plus the District of Columbia. Five people have died in the United States, all with underlying ailments. One person has died in Canada and one in Costa Rica — and both victims had other medical conditions.

In New York, an assistant school principal became the first New York City death linked to the swine flu virus on Sunday evening, and an inmate who entered the city's jail complex on Rikers Island about a month ago was confirmed to have swine flu on Friday.

The city Department of Correction said that the flu had not spread to other prisoners in the 13,200-inmate system.

The Rikers Island inmate — whose name or reason for being in custody was not released — was improving since his hospitalization on Wednesday and was not in serious condition, Correction Department spokesman Stephen Morello said.

Morello said the inmate came into contact with about 70 other prisoners in two housing units at the center, and all had been examined and none came down with the flu.

The jail canceled weekend visits for those inmates and advised any other inmates' family members who were feeling ill not to come, he said. Surgical masks were passed out to those inmates and officers on the two housing units; hand sanitizer was given to everyone in the jails, he said.

The assistant principal in New York, Mitchell Wiener, worked at one of the six schools that have been closed for a week because of the latest rash of suspected swine flu cases.

Wiener's wife, Bonnie, told reporters he had been feverish and sick for nearly a week before his intermediate school shut down. Wiener's son, Adam, said his father began "hallucinating and wasn't coherent" on Wednesday before he was rushed to a hospital.

City health officials are tracking schools with high absence rates. A spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers, Ron Davis, said it received reports from 18 other schools of high student absences and had forwarded the information to the city's health department.

Spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti said the health department was "continuing to monitor the influenza-like symptoms in all schools throughout the city and will evaluate on a case-by-case basis."

In Turkey, health officials said the virus was detected in a man and his mother who had traveled to Istanbul from the U.S. The Health Ministry said the two had arrived Thursday in Istanbul via Amsterdam and were traveling to Iraq.

Thermal cameras at the Istanbul airport detected a high fever in the man and he was put under observation at Istanbul's Haseki hospital along with five other family members.

A lab later detected the H1N1 virus, the formal name for swine flu, in the man and his mother. Four other family members did not have the virus, the ministry said.

Japan on Saturday confirmed its first case of swine flu caught within the country, showing that the effort to block the flu at the island nation's borders had failed.

The government ordered schools closed in parts of the port city of Kobe, where the Ministry of Health said a male high school student who had not recently traveled abroad tested positive for the virus. Two other students at the same school were suspected of having the virus.

The latest confirmed case is Japan's fifth overall. The first four — three high school students and a teacher — had recently returned from a school trip to Canada.

In Europe, British officials confirmed two more cases of swine flu, bringing the total in the United Kingdom to 87. The Health Protection Agency said Saturday that 47 of those cases are in London. Belgium reported its fifth case and Sweden its third.

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