NY probes possible swine flu in toddler death

NEW YORK (AFP) — New York medical authorities were testing Tuesday whether swine flu killed a 16-month-old boy who died with a high fever.

"We don't know yet whether the child who died contracted the H1N1 virus," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a press conference. "The tests won't be done till later today or tomorrow."

New Yorkers are on high alert after the city's first fatality from swine flu, a school vice principal who died over the weekend.

The toddler who died was admitted to hospital in the Queens neighborhood with a strong fever, which is a symptom of both ordinary flu and the new H1N1 strain, the hospital said. His sister and brother also had flu-like symptoms.

Fifteen schools in the city have been temporarily closed, according to latest figures, nearly all of them in the Queens neighborhood.

Another outbreak being scrutinized is at a detention center on Rikers Island, where there were four confirmed cases, Bloomberg said.

"We are watching it very carefully. It is in some sense easier to control because obviously the prisoners can't leave," he said.

"What we've done is before we send a prisoner to court today we've checked every one and not one has shown symptoms of the flu."

The mayor said there was "no reason to think we're out of the woods, but there are some optimistic things like warmer weather" forecast, which usually suppresses the flu virus.

"We will continue to experience outbreaks periodically," Bloomberg said. "A few more schools are likely to be closed. It would be surprising if that didn't happen."

"At some point in time we assume the flu will stop spreading. That typically happens when the weather gets warmer and (the virus) runs its course through the population."

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