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Monday, May 18, 2009

New York principal's death linked to flu virus, hospital says

New York City Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden reports a rising tide of flu in the city.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- An New York middle school assistant principal who was hospitalized with the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, died Sunday apparently from flu complications, a hospital spokesman said.

Mitchell Weiner, 55, assistant principal at Intermediate School 238 in Queens, died at 6:17 p.m. Sunday, Flushing Hospital spokesman Andrew Rubin said.

"We believe he had complications of the swine flu," Rubin told CNN Radio, adding that once Weiner was admitted to the hospital, he was listed in critical condition. However, he wouldn't say whether Rubin had any pre-existing medical conditions.

"It is with great sadness tonight that we learn that New York has lost one of its residents to an illness related to H1N1," New York Gov. David Paterson said.

Last week, when city and state officials announced that four students were infected and a school official in Queens was "critically ill" with the virus, Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not name the official. He described the staffer as an assistant principal who "may have had other health problems."

"We're trying to identify that and ascertain whether those problems were exacerbated by the flu or whether it's totally unrelated," Bloomberg said at the time.

Since the H1N1 outbreak surfaced last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Prevention has linked four U.S. deaths to the virus: A Washington state man with heart problems who died from flu complications; an Arizona woman with lung disease; a Mexican toddler who was visiting with her family and a pregnant woman who had been on life support since April. All had preexisting medical problems.

Weiner's school is one of eight schools temporarily closed in New York due to flu concerns.

"We are now seeing a rising tide of flu in many parts of New York City," said New York City Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden earlier Sunday.

"With the virus spreading widely, closing these and other individual schools will make little difference in transmission throughout New York City, but we hope will help slow transmission within the individual school communities."

The flu strain, which originated in Mexico, killed dozens of people there, causing U.S. officials to worry that it could take a similar toll after spreading across the border. But it has thus far acted similar to typical seasonal influenza -- which usually can be treated successfully but can be deadly among the very old, very young and people with preexisting health problems.

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