Swine Flu Stages Deadly Comeback in U.S.

The death of a New York City school official over the weekend marked the sixth swine-flu related fatality in the U.S. as the virus staged a deadly comeback -- a stark reminder that the wrath of the rapidly spreading flu is far from over.

A New York City school official who was hospitalized with swine flu died late Sunday as new cases were reported in three countries and health experts estimated that as many as 100,000 Americans could be infected with the virus.

The city's health commissioner said there is an "increasing level of flu activity" in New York City and that he expects to see more severe cases of the virus in the future. The city, which has the largest public school system in the country, closed a total of 16 schools as a precaution.

The death of assistant vice principal Mitchell Weiner, 55, was the first swine flu-related fatality since the city reported its first case in April -- prompting the closure of half a dozen schools. Health complications besides the flu likely played a part in Weiner's death, hospital officials said. But his family said he only suffered from the joint disease, gout.

His wife, Bonnie, said the city "lulled us into a false sense of security" when they waiting too long to close schools to protect against the spreading of swine flu, she said.

The city's first outbreak of the virus occurred three weeks ago when 700 students and about 300 others linked to a Catholic high school in Queens began to report symptoms of the virus.

An Arizona woman died from the virus last week and earlier virus-related deaths were reported in Texas and Washington state.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today swine flu was in 46 states plus the District of Columbia and there were at least 5,123 confirmed and probable cases in the U.S., Reuters reported. Experts said it is more likely 100,000 Americans may be infected.

Japan shuttered 2,000 schools after the number of cases soared from five to more than 130 over the weekend but the World Health Organization decided not to raise to six in the wake of the rocketing number of cases during its annual meeting start.

WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan said the epidemic is in "a grace period" and the organization will remain at phase five although she said it's unclear how long this period would last.

Fearing a swine flu pandemic declaration could spark mass panic and economic devastation, Britain, Japan, China and others asked the global body Monday to tread carefully before raising its alert.

The WHO said it would listen to members' concerns.

"No one can say whether this is just the calm before the storm," Chan said.

Turkey, India and Chile also reported their first-ever swine flu cases over the weekend.

Swine flu has sickened more than 8,829 people worldwide in 40 countries and killed 76, mostly in Mexico, the WHO reported.

Contact Us