A Comparison of Clinical and Epidemiological Characteristics of Fatal Human Infections with H5N1 and Human Influenza Viruses in Thailand, 2004–2006

Influenza Division, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 04/2011; 6(4):e14809. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014809
Source: PubMed


The National Avian Influenza Surveillance (NAIS) system detected human H5N1 cases in Thailand from 2004-2006. Using NAIS data, we identified risk factors for death among H5N1 cases and described differences between H5N1 and human (seasonal) influenza cases.
NAIS identified 11,641 suspect H5N1 cases (e.g. persons with fever and respiratory symptoms or pneumonia, and exposure to sick or dead poultry). All suspect H5N1 cases were tested with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays for influenza A(H5N1) and human influenza viruses. NAIS detected 25 H5N1 and 2074 human influenza cases; 17 (68%) and 22 (1%) were fatal, respectively. We collected detailed information from medical records on all H5N1 cases, all fatal human influenza cases, and a sampled subset of 230 hospitalized non-fatal human influenza cases drawn from provinces with ≥1 H5N1 case or human influenza fatality. Fatal versus non-fatal H5N1 cases were more likely to present with low white blood cell (p = 0.05), lymphocyte (p<0.02), and platelet counts (p<0.01); have elevated liver enzymes (p = 0.05); and progress to circulatory (p<0.001) and respiratory failure (p<0.001). There were no differences in age, medical conditions, or antiviral treatment between fatal and non-fatal H5N1 cases. Compared to a sample of human influenza cases, all H5N1 cases had direct exposure to sick or dead birds (60% vs. 100%, p<0.05). Fatal H5N1 and fatal human influenza cases were similar clinically except that fatal H5N1 cases more commonly: had fever (p<0.001), vomiting (p<0.01), low white blood cell counts (p<0.01), received oseltamivir (71% vs. 23%, p<.001), but less often had ≥1 chronic medical conditions (p<0.001).
In the absence of diagnostic testing during an influenza A(H5N1) epizootic, a few epidemiologic, clinical, and laboratory findings might provide clues to help target H5N1 control efforts. Severe human influenza and H5N1 cases were clinically similar, and both would benefit from early antiviral treatment.

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