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Monitoring Tsunami-Driven Flu in Sri Lanka
December 31, 2004
>>It would be prudent for federal, state, and provincial public health departments to set up surveillance systems to monitor the health of individuals who traveled to help with the tsunami recovery efforts.<<
The tsunami-related death toll in Sri Lanka is approaching 30,000, second only to Indonesia, where the death toll could top 100,000. Prior to the tsunami, the influenza situation in Sri Lanka was unclear. Initial cases were diagnosed as Influenza A and Influenza B with reports of transmission among family members. The 9 fatalities and 75 suspect cases suggested the case fatality rate may be double digits, far higher than is normally seen with human flu.
Reports of poultry deaths and poultry culling raised concerns with regard to bird flu. Government assurances indicated that the fatal cases were very old or very young, but initial reports of transmission among family members suggested some of the cases were not very young or old.
Just prior to the tsunami, the government urged its citizens to avoid crowded public gatherings. However, the widespread destruction is leading to crowded and unsanitary conditions, which warrants close watch of local residents, tourists, and relief workers by health officials.