Global flu levels high, increased flu B in Northern Hemisphere
Flu levels in the Northern Hemisphere continued to rise, especially in Europe and North America, with high but stabilizing activity noted in areas of northern Asia and the Middle East, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a Mar 7 update.
The 2009 H1N1 virus is the predominant strain worldwide, though the proportion of influenza B detections has increased recently in several regions.
In North America, flu levels have risen, with the United States and Canada reporting increased detections of H1N1, while H3N2 predominates in Mexico.
Europe continues to report high H1N1 activity, with elevated levels of severe infections in Russia and Ukraine. Flu A activity is picking up in northern and central Europe, while flu B predominates in France. Flu B currently constitutes 43% of sentinel surveillance detections in Europe, suggesting high levels of flu A and B co-circulation, the WHO said.
Flu levels remain high in northern temperate and tropical areas of Asia, with H1N1 predominating and some circulation of H3 and B viruses. Korea reported increases in H1N1 detections, Thailand detected increased flu B activity, and Hong Kong continues to experience high detections of co-circulating H1N1 and B viruses.
Flu activity in the Middle East and Africa remains low, meanwhile, with the exception of sustained levels of H1N1 and B viruses in Oman and Israel, and increasing H1N1 detections in Algeria, Morocco, and Niger, the WHO said.
Flu activity was low in the tropical Americas, with the exception of increased H1N1 activity and high levels of severe illness reported in Jamaica and high flulike illness in Puerto Rico.
Globally, influenza A made up 79% of flu detections in recent weeks, and, of the subtypes samples, 87.7% were the 2009 H1N1 virus. Of the subtyped influenza B samples, only 24.4% were from the Yamagata lineage, the B strain in this season's trivalent Northern Hemisphere flu vaccines.
Mar 7 WHO update
Possible influenza A treatment receives FDA fast-track status
MedImmune announced that its experimental treatment for patients hospitalized with influenza A received fast-track status to gain US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, according to a Mar 7 press release.
MedImmune, the global biologics research and development division of AstraZeneca, recently completed a phase 1 clinical trial to determine the safety and efficacy of MEDI8852, a human monoclonal antibody intended to treat acute and uncomplicated flu A infections in hospitalized patients.
The FDA grants fast-track status to pharmaceuticals that address unmet needs and treat serious conditions. MEDI8852 is currently being evaluated in Phase 1b/2a clinical trials to determine the safety and efficacy of a single intravenous dose administered alone or in combination with oseltamivir (Tamiflu), AstraZeneca said.
MedImmune has received fast-track designations for most of its recent infectious disease pharmaceuticals, including drugs to prevent complications from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants and preventive treatments for nosocomial pneumonia caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, the company said.
Mar 7 AstraZeneca press release
Two new H5N1 outbreaks reported in Nigeria
Nigeria continues to battle outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu, according to a report yesterday from Nigerian agricultural officials to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
The first outbreak began on Mar 1 on a farm in the northwestern state of Zamfara. Of the 8,699 chickens, 228 became ill and died, and the remaining 8,471 were culled to prevent the spread of infection.
The second H5N1 outbreak occurred Mar 4 on a farm in the central Nigerian state of Bauchi. Of the 5,000 chickens on the farm, 263 were sickened and died, and 4,737 were destroyed.
The OIE report attributes the outbreaks to poor farm biosecurity.
Mar 7 OIE report