One of the signs that a more lethal H1N1 virus has evolved is a cluster of deaths. Two such clusters have previously been reported, one in Indiana and the other in Austin, Texas. However, in both cases, the clusters involved siblings. Hence, one could argue that a genetic susceptibility to flu viruses might be responsible for the fatal outcomes.
Now comes a report that two oil workers have died of pandemic H1N1. They were apparently not related to each other but were roommates.
From KTRE, November 21, 2009
A hospital spokesman has confirmed the second recorded H1N1 related death in Nacogdoches County. The 53-year-old oil rig worker from Enid, Oklahoma died Friday at 3:50 p.m.
The victim checked into Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital last week when he began experiencing severe symptoms.
This update follows the death of his roommate, a 55-year-old oil rig worker from Mississippi, who passed away Thursday morning as a result of H1N1.
The deaths of two unrelated men within 24 hours of pandemic H1N1 suggests that they may have been exposed to a more lethal form of the disease.
It should go without saying that it is extremely urgent to sequence the virus that killed these two men to determine if it has mutated to a more lethal form. Isolates should be administered to ferrets to determine if virus is more lethal than other strains. I have been arguing for the need for this data for previous clusters. As far as I know, these obvious steps have not been taken. As a result, events may soon overtake experiments. The deaths of two unrelated men who were in close proximity strongly suggests that the fatalities were not due to host factors, but rather, a more lethal virus
Time is running out.