FLU NEWS SCAN: Flu curbs hospital visits, H5N1 strains in Egypt, avian-origin H3N2 in dogs

Dec 27, 2012

Duke health system curbs visitors amid North Carolina flu spike
A sharp rise in flu activity in parts of North Carolina prompted officials at Duke University Health System yesterday to temporarily restrict visitors at its hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers, the organization announced in a statement. Visitors are limited to immediate family or caregivers age 18 and older who don't have fever, cough, or other flu-like symptoms. The move follows a Dec 21 comment from the state's health director, Laura Gerald, that flu activity in North Carolina is at its highest level in the past decade. North Carolina has already recorded 12 flu deaths. "It is very unusual for us to see this many deaths so early in the flu season," Gerald said, adding that she strongly recommends that anyone over age 6 months be vaccinated against flu. Neighboring South Carolina is experiencing an early, steep rise in flu activity and deaths as well, the Charleston Post and Courier reported yesterday. According to figures through Dec 15 from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, 519 hospitalizations and 10 deaths have been recorded, well above totals for all of the last flu season, according to the report.
Dec 27 DukeHealth.org press release
Dec 21 North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services press release
Dec 27 Post and Courier story

Diversity of H5N1 strains in Egypt poses challenges for vaccination
The antigenic diversity of H5N1 influenza viruses circulating in Egyptian poultry as well as an emerging clade, 2.2.1.1, poses mounting challenges for vaccination programs for both animals and humans in the country, says a study slated to appear in the Jan 20 issue of Virology. Egypt has seen highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) of the H5N1 subtype since 2006. Control measures, including a poultry vaccination program undertaken at that time, have largely failed, and the virus became endemic in the country by 2008. In addition, nearly 170 human cases have occurred. The authors used antigenic cartography and principal component analysis to assess the antigenic characteristics of H5N1 viruses circulating from 2007 through 2010. A total of 26 HPAI H5N1 viruses in poultry located through phylogenetic trees of amino acid sequences were used as prototypes for antigenic characterization. The researchers found that in 2010, multiple antigenic clusters co-circulated in Egypt, even in the same province, and they identified antigenic differences both between and within H5N1 clades, including clade 2.2.1 and the newly recognized clade 2.2.1.1. The authors say their results "emphasize the need to monitor constantly the genetic and antigenic evolution of H5N1 viruses in endemic countries such as Egypt in order to make educated decisions on vaccine candidates for humans and animals."
Jan 20 Virology article abstract

Study tracks avian-origin H3N2 in China's dog populations
The first systematic surveillance of H3N2 canine influenza virus (CIV) in various dog populations in southern China revealed that the viruses were similar to recently isolated avian-origin strains in dogs and cats from Korea and elsewhere in China. The researchers based their findings on canine nasal samples taken from dog farms in Guangzhou and Shenzen and from pet dogs. They reported their findings in the Dec 20 issue of Infection, Genetics and Evolution. Serologic surveillance revealed that the infection rates for avian-origin H3N2 in farmed and pet dogs were 12.22% and 5.3%, respectively. The authors suggested that the virus probably spread via close contact between infected dogs in different dog populations. The group warned that virus circulation in a densely populated area with heavy animal trade poses a risk for pets and provides an environment for mutations and reassortment that could lead to new virus strains and possible threats to public health.
Dec 20 Infect Genet Evol abstract

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