Queens Parents Prepare for Second Season of Swine Flu

Posted on 08. Dec, 2009 by in Life & Times, Seasonal, Uncategorized

By Azriel James Relph

Six women linger at their table after finishing lunch at The Cookoo’s Nest, an Irish Pub in Woodside, Queens.   They’re family and friends who meet in the neighborhood where they grew up to catch up a few times a year.  The conversation moves from what old neighbors and nephews are doing, to what they refer to as the germaphobia of some of the parents in their children’s schools.

“We played in dirt all day long growing up,” says Joyce Salamon.  “Kids today – they’re all whiney -piney.  They need to go out and get dirty.”

Diane Fitzgerald isn’t so sure: “It’s a different world today.  There’s different stuff out there.”

That “different stuff” includes the H1N1 virus – or swine flu.  The swine flu epidemic that struck in the spring caused the death of one administrator at a public school in Queens, followed by the closing of several schools throughout the city. The CDC reports that visits to doctors for influenza-like symptoms are down from their peak in April, but as the new school year begins some Queens parents remain concerned

“I have a daughter,” says Perry Pema, manager of a Woodside restaurant. “I’m just worried because next week school is starting.  I tell her to wash her hands a lot at school.”

The mention of swine flu causes Salamon – who now lives in Long Island where she is an administrator at a public school – to amend her opinion.  “Anything is a concern when you work in schools,” says Salamon.  “Every year I get the cold, but the swine flu is really a concern.”

When her son came home from school sick last year, Salamon immediately thought of the swine flu. “I rushed him to the doctor and he just had a regular virus.  Normally I don’t overreact. Because of the whole swine flu thing, I got scared,” she says.

Fitzgerald was surprised to see six boxes of tissue and a container of sanitary wipes listed on her son’s school supply list for his senior year of high school.  At home, she says she isn’t too worried about germs, but school is a different story.  “I just keep on top of them to make sure they are always washing their hands at school.”

Dr. Saulius J. Skeivys, a local physician at the Woodside Family Health Center, says he has only received one question about swine flu in recent months. “This is really a mild issue,” he says “but the media is blowing it up. Swine Flu is a relatively mild disease in most people compared to the regular flu.”

Sharon Oneill, a bartender at Seán Óg’s, says she hasn’t heard any of her customers voice concern about swine flu recently: “It was so hyped up in the media when it first came out,” she says. But lately: “There’s a lot of making jokes when someone at the bar sneezes, but that’s about it.”

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