Thursday, 19 December 2013

Texan flu step: flu-like illness outbreak in Montgomery County [UPDATE #2]

Click image to enlarge.
County of Montgomery highlighted in red.
From Wikipedia
While 1,920 influenza-like illnesses (briefly that's measurable fever plus one or more particular symptom usually; includes sore throat, fatigue, body aches and complications including pneumonia) have occurred in this county since the start of the local influenza season, 8 severe infections (all with pneumonia) in adults (41-years to 65-years old) have been admitted to 1 (?) facility. These 8 cases are not all testing positive for the "common" influenza virus types. Initial testing may have been by rapid "bedside" influenza test which are known for their lack of sensitivity. PCR testing would be preferred, if that wasn't used.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, seasonal influenza's populations at greatest risk of severe disease usually include the very young (under 5-years) and older adults (>65-years), pregnant women and indigenous populations, and those with a range of pre-existing medical conditions.

4/8 cases died and none of the fatal cases were vaccinated against influenza (?survivors were vaccinated). Kidney issues have also been reported according to a video report at the Houston Chronicle.

1/4 surviving case has tested positive for influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus, which is circulating locally as the annual flu season is well engaged in the region. 2 other survivors have tested NEG for all influenza viruses and have been sent on to the CDC. Test results are outstanding on the other survivor.

Click on image to enlarge.
2013-14 Influenza season data from FluView, CDC at
Of those 221 antigenically subtyped by the CDC,
184 are H1N1 2009.
Management steps include staying away from ill people, hand-washing using soap and water/alcohol-based hand rubs, covering coughs and sneezes, staying at home when ill, cleaning linens, eating utensils and dishes used by ill people, and wiping down frequently touched surfaces if likely to be a landing spot for virus from an ill co-habitant/co-worker/school or daycare child.

It would be interesting to know what testing has been employed for influenza and what other respiratory viruses and bacteria have been tested for and excluded because, despite some enthusiastic but highly misleading and inflammatory guesswork, there are not yet enough data to identify an infectious aetiology for this pneumonia cluster. I'm sure in a busy environment like this, work is progressing on many levels to resolve the mystery. Since at least 2 of the 8 patients have tested negative for influenza viruses, it is premature to extrapolate from the 1 positive case that H1N1 is the cause of all cases; it may be but those results are not yet in.


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