As the deadly H1N1 flu is making a comeback in places around the world, including in the southeast United States – Georgia in particular, which has been hit particularly hard – authorities are wondering whether these new outbreaks of the influenza virus represent a worrisome “third wave,” a new mutation, or whether something else is in play that’s responsible. Alabama and North Carolina also have reported outbreaks, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials reported in their latest update on the spread of the virus.
Local activity has also been reported in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, Hawaii, New Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Across the world in Malaysia, new A H1N1 clusters have been detected throughout the country, putting the country’s Health Ministry on high alert. Between March 21 and 27, 83 people in Selangor, Malacca and Terengganu were confirmed infected with the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the H1N1 pandemic influenza remains the most prominent influenza virus circulating around the world and that the virus remains active in parts of the tropical zones of Asia, the Americas, and Africa. Elsewhere, “an increasing trend in pandemic influenza activity for at least one week during March,” according to the WHO, occurred in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia all reported.
“Regarding H5N1, there have been sporadic reports of minor changes in viral structure, but none that have thus far led to increased transmissibility,” the official added, saying that “virulence remains the same with a consistent 60 percent mortality rate in the human population. The most recent cases are still coming from Egypt and Viet Nam. Overall, WHO’s case count now stands at 492 documented cases, with 291 associated deaths.”
Authorities continue to be concerned that as pandemic H1N1 comingles with the highly fatal H5N1 bird flu there could be a genetic “reassortment” of the two viruses, potentially resulting in a deadly new flu virus.
Writing in his latest bulletin, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) and director of the National Institutes of Health-supported Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance within CIDRAP, said “recent novel H1N1 influenza developments in the southeastern region of the United States merit … attention. They’re prime examples of why we must vigilantly expect the unexpected. Osterholm pointed out “an unusual level of hospitalizations linked to lab-confirmed novel H1N1 influenza in the state of Georgia prompted CDC to call a short-notice press briefing and describe the uptick as a ‘worrisome trend.'”
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