Monday, June 15, 2009

Influenza Pandemic

I've been meaning to post for a few days now, but vacation activities and yet another viral illness (GI through the family) interfered. So here you go:

The World Health Organization has declared that we are now in an influenza pandemic. Pandemic alert phase 6.

It is sort of anti-climactic, isn't it?

Pandemic is a scary sounding word. The truth is, all it means is that person-to-person transmission is happening in several regions of the world. We've been in an HIV pandemic for quite a few years now and the majority of Americans are not too worked up about that.

Interestingly, there is some evidence that this bug has been around longer than we first thought.

There are still lots of reported problems with testing for novel H1N1. The rapid flu tests seem to be hit or miss, and the PCR testing seems to be running at about 90% accuracy, according to Promed. On the plus side, some of the commercial labs are now offering the test, which should take some of the pressure off of the LRNs.

Last week, Egypt reported cases of novel H1N1. This is concerning because they have cocirculating influenza H5N1 -- otherwise known as the avian flu we've all been worried about. Of course they are not the only country to have both, but they have had a lot of H5N1 human cases of late.

An epidemiologist friend of mine told me that she investigated a household in which one family member tested positive for novel H1N1 and another family member tested positive for seasonal influenza. That's a family to watch -- it is situations like that which allow for gene swapping and breeding of new bugs.

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