Bloomberg unveils plan to fight swine flu

MANHATTAN - Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday that free swine flu shots will be made available to all New York City schoolchildren in an effort to contain the virus.

Speaking at a press conference in Manhattan, Bloomberg and officials from the city's health, schools and emergency departments emphasized that no child will be required to get the vaccine, which is expected to be available in October in the form of a mist and shots.

"We'll leave it up to the parents of the students to decide whether their children need one," the mayor says.

The vaccination will be offered to students attending both public and private schools, as well as to people with weakened immune systems who are at risk of developing severe infections.

Other elements of the city's swine flu prevention plan include tracking the number of people who visit hospitals with flu-like symptoms and posting data related to the flu on a new Web site to be launched later in September.

According to Bloomberg, there is no indication of how severe or widespread the outbreak of the swine flu virus may be, but it is likely to exhibit the same characteristics as in the summer. Bloomberg points out, however, that experts expect the virus to be more prevalent among children than the elderly.

The city will dispatch a team of volunteers called Flu Fighters, who will be visiting houses of worship, nursing homes and schools to educate people about the swine flu virus and encourage them to get vaccinated at one of the city's flu centers and clinics, which will open in case of an outbreak.

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