Today’s news:

Swine flu fears hit home

Suspicion of swine flu was enough to quickly shutter three Brooklyn schools this week — against the recommendation of the city’s Department of Health (DOH).

Swine flu may have sickened students at two Catholic grammar schools, Good Shepherd on Brown Street in Marine Park and St. Brigid on Grove Street in Bushwick, according to the Rev. Kieran Harrington, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. As this paper went to press, Harrington said Bishop Kearney High School on 60th Street in Bensonhurst was also being closed.

All the schools were closed Wednesday and remain closed for the rest of the week.

Harrington said an eighth grader at Good Shepherd recently presented flu‚ąílike symptoms and was tested at a local hospital. It was determined that the student —who has a sibling who recently traveled to Cancun — had influenza. Subsequently, eight other students came down with influenza on Wednesday, and the principal of the school, Anthony Paparelli, along with pastors, decided to close the school. He said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not yet determined if the strain of influenza is the swine flu.

A Bishop Kearney student diagnosed with influenza has a sibling who attends Good Shepherd, prompting the decision to close the school, Harrington said.

At St. Brigid, he continued, a sixth grader was also diagnosed with influenza; the student has a sibling who attends St. Francis Prep in Queens, where 28 swine flu cases have been confirmed. A group of students from St. Francis recently returned from a trip to Mexico, where 150 have died and more than 2,000 people have been sickened with the virus.

At press time, New York City had 49 confirmed cases and 5 cases pending confirmation. Most of the sick have suffered only minor illnesses, according to the DOH.

The DOH said Wednesday that it did not recommend the schools close, but Harrington stood by the Catholic schools’ decision. “When you are dealing with students on the ground, the primary concern is the safety and security of students,” he said.

While typically rare in humans, swine flu is thought to be the predominant strain of influenza in New York City right now, according to DOH Commissioner Thomas Frieden. Symptoms seem to resemble those of seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting as well.

New Yorkers experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek health care and treatment, the agency advises.

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