June 11, 2009

Swine flu in NYC earlier than thought

Some people in New York may have contracted swine flu, or the H1N1 influenza, before the outbreak in mid-May outbreak, health officials said.

Almost 7 percent of New Yorkers said they had experienced flu-like illness between May 1-May 20, a city-wide survey, conducted by telephone from May 21 through May 27, indicated.

The overall prevalence of reported flu-like illness was highest in Queens, where 9.4 percent of respondents reported symptoms; 9 percent reported symptoms in Brooklyn; 4.2 percent in Staten Island; 3.7 percent in Manhattan; and 3.6 percent in the Bronx. Queens also reported the most influenza-like illness among children, with 16 percent of those affected being under the age of 18.

Because the outbreak of H1N1 in New York did not begin to spread widely until mid-May, some people who reported flu-like illness in the survey may have had seasonal flu, strep throat or other illnesses that resembled flu. It is not yet clear what proportion of those with flu-like illness had the H1N1 virus, but all evidence suggests it has spread widely within New York, health officials say in a statement.

Illness and emergency room visits for flu-like illness have recently declined citywide. Other indicators suggest the peak period of H1N1 activity in the outbreak may have occurred after the survey was completed, health officials say.