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December 01, 2005

The CDC on family clustering

This November 2005 article from the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal makes a number of interesting observations:

Although reports of H5N1 family clusters slightly increased, the increase was not statistically significant. Nevertheless, we believe any cluster of cases is of great concern and should be promptly and thoroughly investigated because it might be the first indication of viral mutations resulting in more efficient person-to-person spread. Family clustering does not necessarily indicate person-to-person transmission, as it may also result from common household exposures to the same H5N1-infected poultry or from other exposures, such as to uncooked poultry products.

The decrease in proportion of deaths during 2005 is another epidemiologic change that should be monitored closely because it may reflect viral adaptation to the human host. Surveillance for human cases of avian influenza has been intensified in recent months, perhaps resulting in the identification of less severe cases. Alternatively, more widespread laboratory testing may be associated with false-positive results. No evidence to date shows genetic reassortment between H5N1 and human influenza A viruses. Viruses isolated from case-patients need to be immediately sequenced and characterized in relation to previously circulating viruses to see whether they are evolving.

Recent modeling studies suggest that containing a pandemic at its source may be possible because emergent pandemic viruses may be less transmissible than commonly assumed, and antiviral treatment and chemoprophylaxis may slow the spread. Although the logistics of an attempt to contain the beginning of a potential influenza pandemic are formidable, we believe it is not beyond the capability of the modern global public health system.

Posted by dymaxion at December 1, 2005 12:40 PM

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