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Alarming Spike In H1N1 Hospitalizations and Deaths In Georgia

Recombinomics Commentary 13:36
March 25, 2010

There have been a total of 1,012 H1N1 hospitalizations and 72 influenza associated deaths in Georgia since April 2009.

The above numbers, from the Georgia Department of Community Health, represent an increase of 72 hospitalizations and 14 deaths over cumulative totals reported a week ago.  That week had 80 new hospitalizations, which was 1 shy of the all time high reported at the peak of the fall wave last year.  There were 2 new deaths reported last week, and the highest prior weekly increase was 8 (reported in the same peak week of 81 hospitalizations).  The second highest was 5, also reported last fall, so an increase of 14 deaths in one week would represent an alarming spike.

The spike in hospitalizations and deaths comes at a time when Georgia is reporting “regional” levels of H1N1, in contrast to last fall when the level was “widespread”.  Thus, the ratio of hospitalized or fatal H1N1 cases relative to reported infections is markedly higher, raising concerns that the emerging H1N1 produces more severe and fatal disease than last years pandemic H1N1.

Since the elderly (over 65) represent over 90% of fatal seasonal flu cases, the infection of this age group by pandemic H1N1 would significantly increase fatalities.  However, last year over 90% of pH1N1 deaths were under 65 because the elderly population had cross reactive antibodies generated by infections with the pandemic H1N1 of 1918/1919, or seasonal H1N1 infections prior to 1950.

The Georgia press release mentions vaccinations of children and does not mention an increase in hospitalizations and deaths of an elderly population, suggesting the demographics of the 2010 cases are similar to 2009.

Demographic information on the recent hospitalized and fatal cases, as well as sequence data from these cases, would be useful.

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