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However, city health officials said the
number of reported cases has declined during the past several weeks.
There had been 19 confirmed flu cases in El Paso in April as of
Tuesday, compared with 357 in January, 302 in February and 136 in March.
"There is no indication about any outbreak or any emergency situation regarding influenza of any type," said Fernando Gonzalez, the lead epidemiologist for the city Department of Public Health.
The recent high number of deaths may be attributed to an increase in influenza testing, case detection and reporting by local physicians to city health officials. The additional reporting was spurred by the H1N1 pandemic last year, said officials of the city Department of Public Health.
The above comments on the dramatic spike in influenza and pneumonia (P&I) deaths in El Paso in weeks 14 and 15 don’t match the data. In week 15, the 24 deaths are the highest recorded in the past 15 years in El Paso, and the spike coincides with the outbreak across the border in Juarez. The highest prior week was in 20 in week 5 in 2000, which was at the height of flu season.
Today the week 16 report shows 8 more deaths, raising the three week total to 51, which again is the highest total for the past 15 years (the previous 3 week high was also in 2000 - weeks 3-5). The 51 total is far higher than the 13 reported for the same period in 2010 and much higher than the 17 reported previously this season for any consecutuive three weeks. Thus, increased testing due to last year’s H1N1 outbreak should have produced high numbers of deaths in early 2011, when influenza levels peaked, as noted above.
In the P&I tables, the deaths recorded on death certificates, regardless of cause, are broken down by age, while the subset that is linked to pneumonia or influenza is presented as an aggregate. The outbreak in Juarez has been linked to H1N1 and the deaths have been almost exclusively in those under 65.
An age breakdown for the P&I deaths in El Paso (and all 122 cities listed at the CDC website) would be useful.
Moreover, in Juarez, the deaths have been linked to a novel H1N1 (Chihuahua sub-clade) with D225N, and PAHO has issued a H1N1 pandemic alert for North and South America. Therefore, sequence data on H1N1 from severe and fatal H1N1 cases in El Paso would be useful.