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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Flu activity starting to rise in Europe, parts of US

From Lisa Schnirring at CIDRAP, excerpt :

" Though flu activity is still below epidemic thresholds in most of the Northern Hemisphere, increases in areas such as Spain, northern Africa, and part of Canada suggest that the season is starting, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today.

Meanwhile, most flu markers in the United States showed low levels of activity, but three regions saw the percentage of doctor's visits for flu-like illness rise above their baselines, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

So far H3N2 is the dominant influenza strain in the Northern Hemisphere, with small numbers of 2009 H1N1 cases reported over the past few weeks, the WHO said.

In most of Europe, flu activity remained at interseasonal levels, but Spain and Turkey reported notable increases in flu virus detections, according to the WHO. The number of positive respiratory samples at European sentinel sites doubled from the previous week.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in its weekly update today said the flu season has begun in Europe. Though the H3N2 virus is dominant so far, making up about 94% of the viruses that have been subtyped, the 2009 H1N1 virus "features significantly" in the severe flu infections that have been reported so far.

The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for flu more than doubled from the previous week, rising from 9.3% to 23.4%, the ECDC said.

Most countries reported low-intensity flu activity, with the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain reporting local spread, according to the ECDC. Nine countries and the United Kingdom reported sporadic activity."

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