NEWS SCAN: Global H5N1 cases hit 500, 1918 pandemic in Mexico, hemorrhagic fever in Congo

Jul 6, 2010

WHO confirms 500th H5N1 case
The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday confirmed the recent illness and death of an Indonesian woman from H5N1 avian influenza, pushing the global number of cases to 500. According to an Indonesian health ministry report to the WHO, the 34-year-old woman from South Jakarta got sick on May 25, was hospitalized on May 27, and died on Jun 1. A WHO statement on the woman's illness and death said she may have had environmental exposure to the virus from manure in her plant nursery. The woman's infection raises Indonesia's number of H5N1 cases to 166 and the number of deaths to 137, for an 83% case-fatality rate. The country has the world's highest number of cases and fatalities. Of the 500 global cases, 296 (59%) have been fatal.
Jul 5 WHO statement
Study: 1918 flu pandemic didn't spare elderly in Mexico
An analysis of mortality records in two Mexican cities during the 1918 influenza pandemic suggests that older people there were not spared by the virus to the degree they were in the United States and Europe, according to a team of American and Mexican researchers. Previous studies have shown that in the US and Europe, young adults had the highest death rates and that those 65 and older were largely protected. To examine the age distribution of deaths in Mexico, the research team collected respiratory mortality data for Mexico City and Toluca and calculated seasonal excess mortality, according to their report in the Journal of Infectious Diseases (JID). They found that Mexico City experienced pandemic waves in the spring and fall of 1918 and the winter of 1920, with unusually high death rates in 25- to 44-year-olds. Toluca had higher death rates than Mexico City but did not experience a third wave of cases. While young adult were hit hard in both cities, the elderly also experienced "substantial" excess mortality. "Overall, the Mexican experience suggests that the pronounced mortality sparing that has been documented in the historical US and European studies may not have been a global phenomenon," the report states. The authors suggest that populations in different countries differed in their prior immunity to the 1918 virus, possibly because of spotty circulation of flu viruses in the 19th century.
Jul 1 JID study abstract

Patient tests negative for hemorrhagic fever in Congo outbreak
One of several people suffering from a suspected viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) in the Republic of the Congo tested negative for several VHFs, the WHO said in a Jul 2 update. The patient tested negative for Ebola virus, Marburg virus, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and arenavirus infection. The testing was done by a laboratory in Franceville, Gabon. The negative findings do not rule out the possibility that a VHF outbreak has occurred or is continuing, the WHO said. The agency had announced on Jun 29 that it was helping to investigate five suspected cases, including three fatal ones, in a forest village in the Mokoke district. The WHO said samples from the three fatal cases could not be obtained. The deaths involved men who got sick after a hunting trip to Odzala National Park.
Jul 2 WHO statement

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