Clinical laboratory managers should be planning for a busy flu season this fall
Yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared that A/H1N1 influenza (swine flu) is a global pandemic. This is the first such flu pandemic in 41 years. The announcement was not a surprise, since it was know that WHO was prepared to make this declaration weeks ago. But objections from several countries that such a declaration might trigger civil unrest and economic disruption caused WHO to defer this decision until yesterday.
There was little drama to this development, since the new A/H1N1 strain of the influenza virus has not turned out to be especially virulent or lethal. As of Wednesday, WHO released information that 74 countries have reported 27,737 cases of A/H1N1 flu and 141 deaths attributed to this virus. In the United States, the case count has topped 13,000 with at least 27 deaths confirmed to this strain of influenza.
Officials in Mexico were criticized as being slow to respond to the spread of A/H1N1 swine flu on Tuesday, April 28. Mexico was reported to have failed to deliver medicine to the families of the dead, two weeks after the first confirmed death from the flu, the Associated Press reported. Also, the government had not determined where the outbreak began or how it spread, the AP said. In Mexico, 159 people may have died of swine flu, but only seven of these deaths have been verified as A/H1N1 by laboratory tests, the New York Times reported today (April 29).
Similar cases reported in the California counties of San Diego and Imperial, as well as in San Antonio, Texas
Mexico is dealing with what experts believe to be a new strain of influenza which has a combination of genes not previously identified with either human or swine flu. However, this emerging strain-described as A/H1N1 in news reports-seems to be most similar to a flu virus circulating in pigs since 1999. A troubling number of deaths connected to this virus have caught the attention of Mexican health authorities, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), health officials in Canada, and, as of this afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC).
Dark Daily is the first laboratory news resource to alert medical laboratories, pathology laboratories and experts in laboratory medicine to this situation, which has only caught the attention of news outlets in recent hours. In particular, clinical laboratories in states bordering Mexico, including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, will want to be particularly vigilant.