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H3N2 California 7 Flu Fatalities in US Children / Young Adults?

Recombinomics Commentary
February 26, 2005

The latest CDC report on influenza A activity has revealed a dramatic up-tick in the number of H3N2 influenza cases caused by the California strain, A/California/7/2004.  For the latest reporting week, ending February 6, 2005 there were 54 new H3N2 isolates added to the total. All 54 were the California strain.  The prior week there were 17 isolates and again all were California.  In contrast, through the end of the first week in 2005, all H3N2 isolates had been Fujian-like.

Most of the recent isolates sub-typed were from the east coast where influenza A has become widespread.  At the same time media reports on clusters of children and young adults suddenly dying after developing flu-like symptoms have recently surfaced.

There have been reports of two clusters of 3 deaths.  One cluster was of 3 boys in Eastern Pennsylvania.  All three died between February 7 and 15. One was a fifth grader (11M) in Bregy elementary school, another was a sixth grader (11M) at the Bala Cynwyd
middle school, and the third was a freshman (15M) at the Nazareth Area high school.  All three Eastern Pennsylvania students suddenly died after coming down with the flu.

Another cluster was among armed forces personnel in North Carolina.  Two were at Fort Bragg and one was in Raleigh.  All three had returned from active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan several months ago.  The sudden deaths of these three young adults (between December 26, 2004 and last week) have family members questioning the military about circumstances leading up to their flu-like illness and sudden death.

There have also been pairs of meningitis deaths in Vermont, Michigan, and California in the past few weeks, including two students in Illinois who died of bacterial meningitis or viral myocarditis.

The California H3N2 has become the dominant H3N2 strain in the US extremely quickly, suggesting it is quite virulent.  The clusters of deaths in children and young adults suggest it is also quite deadly.

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