Rye Country Day got caught in a rapidly shifting tide of swine flu recommendations this week. First it was told to shut down for two weeks after two students came down with probable swine flu. Then it was told to reopen, as national health officials reversed course on the seriousness of the disease and on the best way to contain it.
The private school enrolls a number of Larchmont students. (See:Swine Flu and You for more local reaction and advice.)
Late on Monday, May 4 the school announced it was closing for two weeks beginning the next day. Unofficial sources say two students became ill after a seventh grade class trip to Philadelphia. They were diagnosed over the weekend with probable H1N1 virus, better known as swine flu.
No hospitalization was required, and the two children were recovering quickly after taking Tamiflu. But, the Westchester County Health Department, on advice from the federal Centers for Disease Control, shut the school.
Students expecting to take Advanced Placement exams on Tuesday were left up in the air. Sports teams had to forfeit their games, and all other extra-curricular activities were canceled.
Students were told they could congregate in groups of five or fewer – which would have cut out the senior prom, scheduled for a week from Friday.
The school did shut down on Tuesday, but by that afternoon, the CDC had reversed course.
According to a May 5 release from Westchester County Health Commissioner Dr. Joshua Lipsman, “As of 2 pm today, state and federal health authorities advised local health departments that because cases of swine flu in the U.S. have been comparable to seasonal flu, there is no need to close schools. ” He offered “sincere regrets” for the confusion and disruption caused by the changing advice, noting that he had been acting on the latest state and federal recommendations.
Rye Country Day was told it could resume classes on Wednesday. Students who missed their Advanced Placement exams believe they will be allowed to make them up, but details are not yet available.
“Anyone who visits, plays sports at or otherwise is in close contact with Rye Country Day School students can continue their usual routine without hesitation,” Dr. Lipsman said.
Westchester’s First Adult Case of Swine Flu Reported
Meanwhile, Westchester has its first case of probable swine flu in an adult. A 25-year-old Tuckahoe man was in Cancun, Mexico from April 17 to 24 and developed “mild flu-like” symptoms on April 27. According to Dr. Lipsman’s release, the man is recovering at home and is otherwise healthy.
The most recent guidelines would not have required such a mild case to undergo testing.
The provisional tests conducted on the three recent Westchester cases suggest a 90% probability that the patients were infected with the H1N1 virus. The county is waiting for confirmation from the CDC. Two earlier cases have been confirmed. These were at the Rye School of Leadership, a small alternative program housed at Rye High School.
Elsewhere, there were reports of a second death from swine flu in the United States. The woman, from a Texas county on the Mexican border, was reportedly suffering from other chronic underlying health conditions. The first death was a Mexican toddler who was already ill when he entered this country.
Despite the additional death, public health fears and restrictions related to the swine flu have eased. Citizens are still being urged to follow practical guidelines to avoid contracting or spreading disease.
Dr. Lipsman advised, ”The best way to prevent getting flu-like symptoms, whether H1N1 or regular seasonal flu, is to cover your mouth when you cough, wash your hands thoroughly and often, avoid being near anyone who has such symptoms and stay home if you have a fever over 100 degrees along with a cough, runny nose or congestion until you are clear of such symptoms.”