WHO: Europe's flu activity shows slow increase

Jan 24, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – Flu activity in the World Health Organization's (WHO's) European region is spreading from west to east and is slowly increasing, with several countries reporting that the 2009 H1N1 virus is mainly responsible for severe infections, according to a WHO update.

Fifteen countries, such as Luxembourg, Ireland, and Norway, reported widespread activity, while seven reported regional spread, according to the update, for the week ending Jan 16. In countries that report doctor's visits for flu-like illness, about half reported increases, with two reporting decreases. The highest rates were in children younger than 15. Countries in the central part of the region mainly reported low activity.

Ireland reported that a surge in flu activity was having a severe impact on its healthcare capacity, and Estonia, Georgia, and Israel reported moderate impact.

The 2009 H1N1 virus was dominant in western and northern Europe, with influenza A and B cocirulating in eastern parts of the region, such as Russia, the WHO reported. Influenza B was the dominant strain in a few countries, including Belarus, Norway, and the Ukraine.

Luxembourg detected some co-infections with 2009 H1N1 and influenza B.

About 44% of respiratory specimens from sentinel sites tested positive for influenza, the same as the week before.

Elsewhere, hospital officials in Hanoi reported a new spike in 2009 H1N1 hospitalization, the first in the last 6 months in Vietnam's capital, Tuoi Tre, a newspaper based in Ho Chi Minh City, reported Jan 22. Public health officials in Ho Chi Minh City also reported a similar recent increase in flu activity.

Local officials are warning the public to take flu precautions in advance of Tet (Lunar New Year) travel and celebrations, Tuoi Tre reported.

In other flu developments, an Egyptian doctor recently died of an 2009 H1N1 infection. Egypt's health ministry said yesterday that a 51-year-old male doctor from northern Cairo was treated with oseltamivir (Tamiflu), but not until 5 days after his symptoms first appeared, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported. The ministry spokesman said the man had an underlying condition: chronic chest inflammation caused by heavy smoking.

See also:

Jan 21 WHO EuroFlu weekly electronic bulletin

Jan 22 Tuoi Tre story

Jan 23 KUNA story

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