Swine-Flu Triage

By Liana Loewus — April 30, 2009 1 min read
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School nurses have been hit by layoffs as hard as anyone working in education, but the quick-thinking and arguably heroic actions of one nurse may end up saving a few others their jobs.

Mary Pappas, the nurse at the 2,700-student St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens, New York, is credited with detecting the first case of swine flu in New York State, according to The New York Times. Early Thursday morning, a handful of students came by her office with flu symptoms, and by 10 a.m. dozens were streaming in with sore throats and fevers. She recalls thinking, “Wow, we have something going on here.”

Pappas called Dr. Gary Krigsman, a supervising doctor at the New York City Health Department, on his cell phone to report that students were falling ill. The call prompted the health department to send samples from sick students to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta for testing. By Sunday night, New York State had confirmed eight swine flu cases.

In the last few days, Pappas has been interviewed on the radio and praised by the National Association of School Nurses. She’s quickly gaining fame among nurses nationwide.

“I don’t feel like I’m a hero,” said Pappas, “But I feel like I have very good instincts, based on my experience, and that’s why I’m here.”

Despite her close encounters with the virus, Pappas has remained in good health.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.