WHO: Flu activity still high in many Northern Hemisphere countries
Flu activity is still high in the Northern Hemisphere's temperate-zone countries, with a few countries now reporting hospitalization and intensive care unit admission levels that top previous seasons, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its latest global flu update. Adults ages 65 and older are the hardest hit groups in both Canada and the United States. Elsewhere in North America, flu activity is on the rise in Mexico, much of it from H3N2.
In Europe, flu levels are still high in most countries and are picking up in eastern countries, though activity is peaking in a few countries.
Northern African countries, including Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco, are reporting high levels of illness, and detections are increasing in the western Asia countries Iraq and Israel. In southern Asia, disease activity is high in Iran and Pakistan.
Hot spots in eastern Asia include China, where levels are falling a bit in the north but are still increasing in the south. Hong Kong has reported a steep rise in activity, most of it from influenza B. In South Korea, where the Winter Olympics begin on Feb 9, flulike activity is starting to fall, but H3N2 and influenza B detections are still high.
In the Southern Hemisphere, flu is still at interseasonal levels.
Globally, influenza B activity has increased in recent weeks, accounting for nearly 40% of positive flu tests. Of subtyped influenza A specimens, results were nearly evenly split between 2009 H1N1 (50.3%) and H3N2 (49.7%).
Feb 5 WHO global flu update
UK reports five more H5N6 as low-path H5N3 hits French duck farms
The United Kingdom (UK) yesterday reported five more highly pathogenic H5N6 outbreaks, all involving wild birds, and France reported five outbreaks involving low-pathogenic H5N3.
In the UK, affected locations include two counties that have already reported the virus —Hertfordshire and Warwickshire—and two that are reporting their first detections: Berkshire and Surrey, according to a report from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Different bird species were found dead on Feb 5, mostly at nature parks with one at a wastewater treatment facility. Most of the affected birds were mute swans.
The report said the virus involved in the outbreak is a reassortant between highly pathogenic H5N8 circulating in Europe and a European N6 virus.
France, meanwhile, reported five recent low-pathogenic H5N3 outbreaks on duck farms, mainly ones producing poultry for foie gras, all in the western part of the country, the OIE said in a separate report. Affected department include Gers, Morbihan, and Loire-Atlantique.
The start dates range from Jan 29 to Feb 3. At four of the farms, screening before movement of ducks led to the detection of the virus. On a fifth farm, the birds were tested due to epidemiological links with one of the affected farms.
All of the 36,540 susceptible birds on the farms are slated for culling to curb the spread of the virus. In January, France reported a H5N3 outbreak at a duck farm in Landes department.
Feb 5 OIE report on H5N6 in the UK
Feb 5 OIE report on low-path H5N3 in France