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Flu Epidemic Closes Russian Schools for One Month

Recombinomics Commentary
February 26, 2005

>>  YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, February 19 (Itar-Tass) -- The flue and cold diseases epidemic has made the local administration prolong the quarantine at schools in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk until March 1.

Children do not go to school here for two weeks already.

Several kindergartens are also under quarantine.

The Sakhalin Region's chief epidemiologist has signed the quarantine prolonging resolution.

There are 30 schools in the city and adjacent settlements.

The level regarded as the epidemic beginning is exceeded by 100 percent in some districts of the Sakhalin region, the local state sanitary and epidemiological centre said.

The level is exceeded by 214 percent in the Okha district in the north of the island. <<

The flu epidemic in Russia is widespread, stretching from the Sakhalin region, just north of Japan to Volgograd.  Serotype details have not been forthcoming, but some of the regions have H5 or are near locations that have reported H5N1 previously such as China, Korea, or Japan.  However, a virulent strain of H3N2, California/7/2004, is also spreading across the world killing students and soldiers in the US, and evolving with alarming speed.  Serological data on a number of California-like isolates was published yesterday.  Isolates that had evolved the furthest from Fujian and Wellington were from Wisconsin and Iceland, raising the possibility of more evolution in northern regions.

In Russia all of the schools in Volgograd have been closed, but the reported epidemic seems to be most severe in the Sakhalin region, where the quarantine has been extended to cover the entire month of February in some school districts.

The widespread severe cases of influenza in areas that have reported H5 influenza is not a good combination, especially since the H3N2 is so virulent and genetically unstable.

Serotype and sequence information for all 8 influenza genes of isolates from the region would be useful.

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