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Monday, May 18, 2009


Last updated: 12:31 am
May 18, 2009
Posted: 12:00 am
May 16, 2009

Swine flu has become deadly in New York City.

The Queens assistant principal stricken with the now-deadly H1N1 virus succumbed to the illness late today, the first known fatality in the city from the disease, hospital officials said.

Mitchell Wiener, 55, died at 6:17 p.m., just hours after his family optimistically told The Post his condition had stabilized.

The somber news came as city officials ordered five more schools closed today in an attempt to stop the spread of the deadly virus - bringing the total number to 11 citywide that will be shuttered this week.

"We were treating him very aggressively," said Flushing Hospital spokesman Ole Pedersen.

"He was in critical condition. His family was saying that he had not, in fact, deteriorated, which was true, but he was still extremely critical."

Wiener is the sixth person in the US to die from the highly contagious disease.

The assistant principal at IS 238 in Jamaica Estates first fell ill more than a week ago, but didn't seek help at the hospital until his symptoms became severe early Wednesday morning.

Since that time, he had been in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.

Just hours before his death, his wife, Bonnie, said there were hopeful signs.

"There's no change," she told The Post earlier today. "He's stabilized. They're just giving him supporting care and hoping the treatment will kick in."

The additional schools ordered closed today, all in Queens, are IS 158Q in Bayside, Our Lady of Lourdes, a private parochial school in Queens Village, and IS 25Q, World Journalism Preparatory School and PS 233Q, all of which share the same Flushing campus.

"We think it will help stop transmissions throughout the city," the mayor said today.

Coy Jones, the mother of an 8-year-old girl at Our Lady of Lourdes, said, "I thought it was over a week or two ago, and now it's back worse than ever,"

The decision to close the schools was made after high numbers of students at each building reported flu-like symptoms.

At IS 158Q, 41 students out of a total population of 1,127 reported the symptoms, the Health Depart ment said. At the three- school IS 25Q complex, 27 felt sick out of a total of 825 students, and at Our Lady of Lourdes, 37 students were ill out of a total population of 424.

"In my class, five people have been sick," said 14-year-old Ethan Kim, an eighth-grader at IS 158Q. "I know one class had over 20 people out. A lot of my friends' parents pulled their kids out."

Anne Marie Karcinski has a daughter at IS 25Q and a son at St. Francis Prep, site of the first known swine flu outbreak in the city.

"This is the second time for us, to have to go through that," she said.

The closures announced today will remain in effect for a minimum of five days.

Six schools were already under closure before today: JHS 74Q in Bayside; PS 107Q in Flushing; IS 238Q in Jamaica; PS 16Q in Corona; IS 5Q in Elmhurst; IS 318K in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Health officials were at a loss to explain why the outbreaks have occurred overwhelmingly in Queens.

"We could see similar activity in the other boroughs," said Dr. Scott Harper, an epidemiologist with the Health Department. "We just don't know."

Harper urged parents with sick kids to keep them out of school until a full day without symptoms had gone by.

The mayor's handling of the swine flu crisis drew criticism today from city comptroller Bill Thompson, who's running for mayor.

"We went from 'This is a crisis' to 'Don't pay attention' to 'OK, it's a crisis again,' " Thompson said.

Additional reporting by Matthew Nestel.



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