The flu season has reached epidemic levels and has yet to reach its peak, despite a drop-off in cases in some states. Nationwide, nearly four dozen children, about half of them under the age of five, have already died this flu season, which began in November and typically runs into March. New York City doctors, hospitals and pharmacists report quickly rising numbers of flu cases, particularly among children and the city has asked doctors to prioritize vaccines for those with the highest risk. That means the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, pregnant women and children, particularly those under two years of age.
Doctors are calling this the most intense flu season for children since the Hong Kong flu of 1968-69. New York City is reporting widespread activity and the number of reported flu-like illnesses, such as pneumonia, continues to rise, as do deaths from these illnesses.
People with chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes, from which many New York City children suffer, are at increased risk for complications from the flu. Children with the flu are also at particular risk for ear and sinus infections; it's the bacterial illnesses that can lead to hospitalization and death, although death from influenza is rare for children, an average of 92 annually. This season is worse than usual because two of the three strains currently spreading are particularly harsh, and A/Fujian, one of the more virulent strains, was not included in this year's vaccine. Fujian has the strongest link to severe illness and deaths of children and teens.
ABUSE CHARGED AT THE EDWIN GOULD ACADEMY
Six current and former students of the Edwin Gould Academy in Rockland County have filed a civil suit against the school, charging that the staff beat them and slammed them into walls, broke bones, smoked marijuana in front of them and came to work intoxicated. At least one teen was being injected with Thorazine, an anti-psychosis drug, without parental consent or knowledge, says the suit.
The residential school for troubled, abandoned and abused children, located in Spring Valley, is publicly funded as a special school district of the state. It educates up to 200 children ages 12 to 20, most of whom are from New York City. The school's mission is to provide a safe environment in which children can get an education and a new start. The lawsuit was filed in December in the State Supreme Court in the Bronx; the students in the suit reside in Brooklyn. The suit asks unspecified damages.
The school's superintendent said that state officials had investigated abuse allegations and that some of the named staffers had been fired.
CITY COUNCIL PASSES LEAD PAINT BILL
The New York City Council passed a controversial lead paint bill that makes landlords responsible for lead paint and requires them to remove under a stringent schedule.While many in health and social services are in favor of the bill, others are opposed, including non-profit housing developers. They say lead paint is only one of many problems in the housing stock and this bill be result in the reduction of housing renovation in low and moderate-income neighborhoods.
The mayor vetoed the bill on December 20, saying that it could actually harm families with children because landlords will be reluctant to rent apartments to families with small children. The City Council is expected to override his veto.
Sasha Nyary, formerly on the staff of Life Magazine, edits the newsletter of The Fifth Avenue Committee, a community-based organization.