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WHO Team to Investigate Ukraine H1N1 Outbreaks
Recombinomics Commentary 23:43
October 30, 2009

Gregory Hartl said the team was being pulled together by the WHO's Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, which goes by the acronym GOARN.

The team will travel early next week to the eastern European country, which has closed schools and banned public meetings in response to a spike in cases of acute respiratory illness believed to be H1N1.

"This is something that certainly needs investigating," Hartl said from Geneva.

He said the government of Ukraine is being forthcoming with information on the outbreak, which is said to centre on three regions in the western part of the country.

The above comments describe a WHO investigational team being formed in response to the outbreak in Ukraine (see map).  Although the story is evolving, some reports describe a dramatic spread of the virus to 80,000 people, with as many as 100 fatalities.  The early reports describing 100 fatalities mentioned 10,000 infections, which would create an alarming case fatality rate of 1%.  The newer cases would lower the rate, assuming the most recent cases don't follow the pattern described in the first 10,000 cases.

Media reports included descriptions of blood filled lungs, raising visions of the 1918 pandemic, which also involved swine H1N1 that jumped to humans and was efficiently transmitted.  Samples have already been sent to London for analysis, and immediate release of initial sequence data would be useful.

Small changes can have dramatic effects when viruses jump species, and the rapid spread of the H1N1 in western Ukraine is clearly cause for concern.

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