Cluster of deaths related to influenza in Maryland family

[hat-tip, Ree, Dr. Niman and Pixie for many articles on this story]

From WUSA9, March 6, 2012

Calvert County Department of Health officials have not confirmed that “Influenza A” killed three people in a Lusby home, but say it was a contributing factor.


“The first case of illness occurred in an 81-year-old woman who presented symptoms at her home beginning on or about February 23, 2012. She was cared for at home by three of her children, a son and two daughters. The caregivers developed similar upper respiratory symptoms on or about February 28, 2012. All were hospitalized and became critically ill. The elderly woman, a 58-year-old son and a 56-year-old daughter subsequently died. A third family member and caregiver is currently hospitalized at the Washington Hospital Center,” CCHD officials said.

Although we don’t know for sure that flu killed all of these people, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygeine, at least two of the patients tested positive for influenza A. The reports indicate possible human to human spread of an influenza strain with unusual properties. Both the attack rate and the case fatality rate would appear to be very high. Indeed, this pattern is more similar to what we have seen with H5N1 in Asia than H3N2 or H1N1 in the US.

From KGOAM, March 6, 2012

“The first thing that comes to mind is influenza. It can be devastating and make people very ill,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. “But when they’re a cluster like this, we have to wonder if it may be a mutant strain of flu virus. There’s been some concern about a swine flu variant.”

It is obviously essential that we get the sequence of all 8 genomic segments as soon as possible. With existing technology, it should be possible to have this within 24 hours. Lets hope the CDC is better equipped to handle this outbreak than it was for the 2009 pandemic.

[Update, March 7, 2011

From The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygeine [hat-tip, Dr. Niman]

Testing by the DHMH Laboratories Administration has confirmed that two of the cases had Influenza H3, a strain of Influenza A that has been circulating this season.



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