The number of swine flu cases in New York City continues to grow, with hundreds of confirmed or suspected cases, mostly among students.
Four schools -- two in Brooklyn and two in Queens -- will be closed for the rest of the week to prevent any further spread of this new variant of influenza. But with only one reported death and few reports of severe illness in the U.S. attributed to swine flu, New Yorkers are mostly brushing off worries about the illness.
The number of swine flu cases has been growing, but New York seems more like a city under the spell of spring weather rather than worried about a possible pandemic. Parents, students and workers say they're watchful, but not alarmed.
Letia Frandino is a young mother from the borough of Queens, where the New York outbreak was first detected. She said this is the reason why she paid closer attention to the alert. "I have heard that we shouldn't be panicking because there are still mild cases so far in the United States, so that's what we are going on," she said.
Anna Garcia, picking up her daughter after school, said she's also not worried. "I'm a public school teacher in Brooklyn, in a community that's mostly from Mexico, and they don't seem to be panicking," she said. "And as long as you keep your hands clean," you tell the children to keep (keep their hands clean), you know, like you would any cold or flu, you're just telling them to protect themselves."
Teenagers doing homework at a park in Manhattan said they've been warned at school about what could happen if swine flu emerges there. One student, Alison, said, "They were saying how all the kids would miss school for two days while they cleaned the whole school, and the kids would have to go to doctors." Student Jonathan added, "No one really wears masks, like they're not afraid, it's just the flu. But they don't know how bad it is, maybe?"
On Tuesday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said swine flu is expected to spread around the city again -- as some form of influenza does each year - but that, for now, it does not look as if it will cause more deaths than other flus.
"From what we know now, swine flu seems to spread similarly to seasonal garden-variety flu, that we regularly see in our city and we have no reason at the moment from what we have seen here to believe its symptoms are any more severe," he said.
The mayor said that people with flu should stay home, but that no one in New York has yet become seriously ill.
"Almost every case has been very mild," Bloomberg said. "And the process of going from catching it to noticeably getting better, has been in a few days, very quick."
That may be why New Yorkers don't appear worried, and subway cars are as jammed as ever, with few people wearing masks.
"What can you do?" one man said. "You have to get around. Wash your hands, just be careful what you do."
Tests by the Centers for Disease Control are expected to confirm many more cases of swine flu. Thus far, officials say, all the cases in New York stem from contact with travelers returning from Mexico or their families and friends.