WHO: Flu activity builds slowly in the Southern Hemisphere

Jul 9, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – So far Southern Hemisphere countries have seen low levels of flulike illnesses during their flu season, with the pandemic H1N1 virus predominant in Chile, Australia, and New Zealand; in addition, a few other places in the world, such as India, Malaysia, and Singapore, are reporting active transmission of the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported today.

The WHO said so far Australia and New Zealand's flu season resembles that of 2008 when the season arrived and peaked late in the winter. Yesterday, New Zealand's health ministry said flu activity has risen to levels usually seen at this time of year. Though the pandemic virus is circulating, doctor visits for flulike illnesses are still below the seasonal baseline. Four people have been treated in intensive care units thus far, and health officials suspect one death from the virus

In Argentina and Chile, levels of flulike illness have been low, with respiratory syncytial virus as the predominant circulating virus since mid April.

Flu virus detections in South Africa spiked sharply in late June and early July, most of them influenza A (H3N2) and influenza B, the WHO reported. Since Jun 11 the country has been hosting the World Cup soccer tournament, and today the media reported that flu has struck the German team, slated to play tomorrow for third place against Uruguay. The South African Press Association report said the team's coach and three of its players are sick with flu.

In India's Kerala state, pandemic flu transmission was still active but stable, the WHO said. Indian officials have said monsoon rains in Kerala and other southern and western states contributed to a new round of pandemic flu outbreaks.

Several African countries are still reporting active pandemic flu circulation, with influenza B also circulating in central and southern countries and small numbers of seasonal H3N2 detected in the eastern part of the continent.

Central American countries have seen increasing flu activity, with cocirculation of pandemic and seasonal H3N2 viruses, the WHO said. A Jul 6 update from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a WHO regional office, said Jamaica, El Salvador, and Panama are reporting increasing respiratory disease trends. PAHO said it had received reports of 54 new confirmed pandemic H1N1 deaths in five countries.

Flu activity is low and sporadic in Northern Hemisphere countries, where influenza B is predominating, according to the WHO.

Most pandemic H1N1 viruses that have been analyzed are still closely related to the strain recommended for pandemic and seasonal flu vaccines, and no new cases of oseltamivir-resistant pandemic H1N1 have been reported to the WHO.

See also:

Jul 9 WHO statement

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