NEWS SCAN: H5N1 in South Korea, H9N2 cases, global flu activity, flu in swine workers, measles alert

Feb 28, 2011

Another South Korean farm hit with avian flu
About 1,000 farm ducks found dead last week in South Jeolla province of South Korea were confirmed on Feb 26 to have highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza, according to a story yesterday from the country's Yonhap News Agency. The farm is located in the southern part of the country, about 215 miles south of Seoul. The outbreak is South Korea's 46th since the first one was confirmed Dec 29, and officials are concerned about the rapid spread of the disease. In the past 2 months, a record 5.5 million domestic birds have been culled to prevent disease spread, according to the story.
Feb 27 Yonhap story

Two cases of H9N2 infection detailed
A report in the Journal of Infection details two cases of immunocompromised Chinese patients who contracted H9N2 avian flu in 2008 and 2009, one of whom required supplemental oxygen. The first patient, a 3-year-old girl from Shenzhen who had leukemia, had a history of contact with live poultry at a restaurant. She experienced flu-like symptoms and shed virus for 10 days before recovering uneventfully. The second patient, a 47-old-woman from the same city who had post-transplant chronic graft-versus-host disease of the liver and lungs and bronchiolitis obliterans, contracted H9N2 avian flu less than a year later. She experienced fever, tachycardia, and respiratory distress that required 3 liters per minute of supplemental oxygen. She was known to visit live-bird markets but did not recall contact with poultry in the days before she became ill. Her chest x-rays showed extensive bilateral interstitial infiltrates, but she was able to go home with supplemental oxygen 10 days later and recovered from the H9N2 infection. The authors, from Hong Kong, also discuss nine other H9N2 cases in southern China since 1988, stating, "It is possible that human infection with H9N2 is more common than what has been recognized."
Feb 26 J Infect abstract

WHO: North America the global hot spot for flu
Although influenza activity appears to have peaked in Western Europe and remains low or sporadic in most other parts of the world, it is increasing somewhat in parts of North America, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Part of the North American increase involves proportionately more cases of pandemic 2009 H1N1, particularly in Canada, and type B, particularly in the United States. However, the dominant flu virus in North America remains type A(H3N2), unlike in Europe, where 2009 H1N1 has been most common. In Canada, the highest activity is in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces; the consultation rate for influenza-like illness (ILI) country-wide has increased to 35.7 per 1,000 patient visits. US flu activity is widespread in 36 states, and the proportion of consultations for ILI reached 4.5%, an increase from the last WHO report. Deaths from pneumonia or influenza in the United States, at 8.9% of all deaths, also increased. The majority of viruses circulating in Europe and North America match closely with the current trivalent flu vaccine strains.
Feb 25 WHO influenza update

Swine workers have higher rates of antibodies to swine flu viruses, novel H1N1
In the first report of its kind from Europe, serologic studies showed that swine workers had higher rates of antibodies against swine influenza viruses (SIVs), pandemic 2009 H1N1 (pH1N1), and seasonal H1N1 flu than did controls. Researchers studied blood samples from 211 Luxembourgers and 224 matched controls. They found that these percentages of swine workers' samples had neutralizing antibodies compared with controls: avian-like H1N1 SIV, 10.3% versus 7.7%; pH1N1, 8.7% versus 6.1%; and seasonal H1N1, 23.2% versus 13.9%. These differences reached statistical significance for both pH1N1 and seasonal H1N1 flu. For SIV the difference was significant in those 60 years of age and younger: 9.8% versus 6.4%. The authors said their results may indicate no substantial cross-reactivity between antibodies against pH1N1 or SIV and the seasonal H1N1 strain tested, which was from 2008. They write, "Further studies are needed to determine the extent to which serologic responses correlate with infection."
Feb 25 Emerg Infect Dis report

Traveler sparks measles alert at four airports
Public health officials have warned travelers and workers who were at four US airports on Feb 20 and Feb 22 about possible exposure to a New Mexico woman who was diagnosed as having measles upon returning from a visit to London, the Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday. She arrived at Washington, DC's Dulles International Airport in the late afternoon of Feb 20. Two days later she boarded a plane at Thurgood Marshall Airport near Baltimore for an evening flight to Denver, where she transferred for a flight to Albuquerque. Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the AP that authorities in all four areas are in the process of notifying travelers who sat close to the woman. The New Mexico Department of Health said the traveler was a 27-year-old woman from Santa Fe who had not been vaccinated against the disease.
Feb 27 AP story

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