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NYC on guard against h1n1

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Fear of a swine flu resurgence has led the city to offer free flu shots to public school students.

Unveiling a prevention plan for the upcoming cold and flu season, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that flu mist and flu shots for the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, will be available to elementary school students with parental permission.

“Today is the first of what will be many efforts to keep New Yorkers informed about what we are doing to prepare for the return of the H1N1 and seasonal flu,” said Bloomberg. “We can’t predict this year’s flu season, but we can make sure that city government is fully prepared for whatever happens.”

Brooklyn parents had mixed reactions to the news.

“Some people are going to get side effects. That’s going to happen. That’s my only concern,” said Mario Aguila, president of District 14’s Community Education Council (CEC), which represents schools in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

Since Jim Devor’s daughter is in middle school, she is ineligible for the free flu shot. But Devor, who is president of District 15’s CEC covering Red Hook, Park Slope and Sunset Park, supports the city’s offering of free flu shots.

“I think it’s by and large a good thing,” he said. “People who feel that they don’t want to deal with that aren’t required to. Everybody should do their own due diligence to make sure that these things are by and large safe, which I suspect they are.”

City officials say swine flu and the traditional flu are not expected to cause “unusually severe illness” this season. Rather, by administering flu shots and offering other preventative measures, they hope to lessen the strain on area hospitals.

Last spring, several Brooklyn schools were temporarily closed due to swine flu outbreaks.

The city Health Department is encouraging Brooklynites to do their part to prevent the spread of swine flu. Officials say: cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, wash your hands regularly or use alcohol-based hand cleaner, and stay at least three feet away from anyone who is sick.

For more tips, visit the Health Department’s Web site,

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