Monday, May 23, 2011

Another Spring/Summer H1N1 Flu Outbreak?

There is a report out on about another spring outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus that brings to mind the 2009 outbreak. This time it appears that the initial US infection point is El Paso, TX. There is at least one report of infection in a family that had been vaccinated with the H1N1 vaccine in 2009, so there may be limited immunity to this new strain (now being identified as the Chihuahua sub-clade).

Over at they are reporting that genetic sequencing of some of the samples provides evidence that this variant may be very effective at infecting the upper respiratory tract, making this much more likely to spread via aerosols produced by coughing and sneezing. The capability to infect via aerosols makes it easier for this to spread during spring and summer travel seasons, a time when the spread of the flu typically is greatly reduced.

Its way too early to call this a new ‘pandemic’ flu, but it certainly seems to have the potential characteristics to become the next big flu killer. It is not, however, too early to break out the infectious disease response plan that most organizations last looked at in the summer and fall of 2009. A review of the lessons learned in that outbreak should have definitely informed changes and updates to that plan. High-risk chemical facilities will want to pay particular attention to how the plan deals with potential reductions in the availability of security personnel.

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