In the field of syndromic surveillance, various sources are exploited for outbreak detection, monitoring and prediction. This paper describes a study on queries submitted to a medical web site, with influenza as a case study. The hypothesis of the work was that queries on influenza and influenza-like illness would provide a basis for the estimation of the timing of the peak and the intensity of the yearly influenza outbreaks that would be as good as the existing laboratory and sentinel surveillance. We calculated the occurrence of various queries related to influenza from search logs submitted to a Swedish medical web site for two influenza seasons. These figures were subsequently used to generate two models, one to estimate the number of laboratory verified influenza cases and one to estimate the proportion of patients with influenza-like illness reported by selected General Practitioners in Sweden. We applied an approach designed for highly correlated data, partial least squares regression. In our work, we found that certain web queries on influenza follow the same pattern as that obtained by the two other surveillance systems for influenza epidemics, and that they have equal power for the estimation of the influenza burden in society. Web queries give a unique access to ill individuals who are not (yet) seeking care. This paper shows the potential of web queries as an accurate, cheap and labour extensive source for syndromic surveillance.
H9N2 avian influenza viruses continue to circulate worldwide; in Asia, H9N2 viruses have caused disease outbreaks and established lineages in land-based poultry. Some H9N2 strains are considered potentially pandemic because they have infected humans causing mild respiratory disease. In addition, some of these H9N2 strains replicate efficiently in mice without prior adaptation suggesting that H9N2 strains are expanding their host range. In order to understand the molecular basis of the interspecies transmission of H9N2 viruses, we adapted in the laboratory a wildtype duck H9N2 virus, influenza A/duck/Hong Kong/702/79 (WT702) virus, in quail and chickens through serial lung passages. We carried out comparative analysis of the replication and transmission in quail and chickens of WT702 and the viruses obtained after 23 serial passages in quail (QA23) followed by 10 serial passages in chickens (QA23CkA10). Although the WT702 virus can replicate and transmit in quail, it replicates poorly and does not transmit in chickens. In contrast, the QA23CkA10 virus was very efficient at replicating and transmitting in quail and chickens. Nucleotide sequence analysis of the QA23 and QA23CkA10 viruses compared to the WT702 virus indicated several nucleotide substitutions resulting in amino acid changes within the surface and internal proteins. In addition, a 21-amino acid deletion was found in the stalk of the NA protein of the QA23 virus and was maintained without further modification in the QA23CkA10 adapted virus. More importantly, both the QA23 and the QA23CkA10 viruses, unlike the WT702 virus, were able to readily infect mice, produce a large-plaque phenotype, showed faster replication kinetics in tissue culture, and resulted in the quick selection of the K627 amino acid mammalian-associated signature in PB2. These results are in agreement with the notion that adaptation of H9 viruses to land-based birds can lead to strains with expanded host range.
The agro-ecology and poultry husbandry of the south Asian and south-east Asian countries share common features, however, with noticeable differences. Hence, the ecological determinants associated with risk of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI-H5N1) outbreaks are expected to differ between Bangladesh and e.g., Thailand and Vietnam. The primary aim of the current study was to establish ecological determinants associated with the risk of HPAI-H5N1 outbreaks at subdistrict level in Bangladesh. The secondary aim was to explore the performance of two different statistical modeling approaches for unmeasured spatially correlated variation.
An ecological study at subdistrict level in Bangladesh was performed with 138 subdistricts with HPAI-H5N1 outbreaks during 2007–2008, and 326 subdistricts with no outbreaks. The association between ecological determinants and HPAI-H5N1 outbreaks was examined using a generalized linear mixed model. Spatial clustering of the ecological data was modeled using 1) an intrinsic conditional autoregressive (ICAR) model at subdistrict level considering their first order neighbors, and 2) a multilevel (ML) model with subdistricts nested within districts. Ecological determinants significantly associated with risk of HPAI-H5N1 outbreaks at subdistrict level were migratory birds' staging areas, river network, household density, literacy rate, poultry density, live bird markets, and highway network. Predictive risk maps were derived based on the resulting models. The resulting models indicate that the ML model absorbed some of the covariate effect of the ICAR model because of the neighbor structure implied in the two different models.
The study identified a new set of ecological determinants related to river networks, migratory birds' staging areas and literacy rate in addition to already known risk factors, and clarified that the generalized concept of free grazing duck and duck-rice cultivation interacted ecology are not significant determinants for Bangladesh. These findings will refine current understanding of the HPAI-H5N1 epidemiology in Bangladesh.
Bats are reservoirs for many different coronaviruses (CoVs) as well as many other important zoonotic viruses. We sampled feces and/or anal swabs of 1,044 insectivorous bats of 2 families and 17 species from 21 different locations within Colorado from 2007 to 2009. We detected alphacoronavirus RNA in bats of 4 species: big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), 10% prevalence; long-legged bats (Myotis volans), 8% prevalence; little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), 3% prevalence; and western long-eared bats (Myotis evotis), 2% prevalence. Overall, juvenile bats were twice as likely to be positive for CoV RNA as adult bats. At two of the rural sampling sites, CoV RNAs were detected in big brown and long-legged bats during the three sequential summers of this study. CoV RNA was detected in big brown bats in all five of the urban maternity roosts sampled throughout each of the periods tested. Individually tagged big brown bats that were positive for CoV RNA and later sampled again all became CoV RNA negative. Nucleotide sequences in the RdRp gene fell into 3 main clusters, all distinct from those of Old World bats. Similar nucleotide sequences were found in amplicons from gene 1b and the spike gene in both a big-brown and a long-legged bat, indicating that a CoV may be capable of infecting bats of different genera. These data suggest that ongoing evolution of CoVs in bats creates the possibility of a continued threat for emergence into hosts of other species. Alphacoronavirus RNA was detected at a high prevalence in big brown bats in roosts in close proximity to human habitations (10%) and known to have direct contact with people (19%), suggesting that significant potential opportunities exist for cross-species transmission of these viruses. Further CoV surveillance studies in bats throughout the Americas are warranted.
Currently controversy exists about the immunogenicity of seasonal trivalent influenza vaccine in certain populations, especially the elderly. STF2.4×M2e (VAX102) is a recombinant fusion protein that links four copies of the ectodomain of influenza virus matrix protein 2 (M2e) antigen to Salmonella typhimurium flagellin, a TLR5 ligand. The objectives of this study were to assess the feasibility of giving VAX102 and TIV in combination in an effort to achieve greater immunogenicity and to provide cross-protection.
Eighty healthy subjects, 18-49 years old, were enrolled in May and June 2009 in a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial at two clinical sites. Subjects were randomized to receive either TIV + VAX102 or TIV + placebo. Both arms tolerated the vaccines. Pain at the injection site was more severe with TIV + VAX102. Two weeks after immunization the HAI responses to the H1 and H3 antigens of TIV were higher in those that received TIV + VAX102 than in TIV + placebo (309 vs 200 and 269 vs 185, respectively), although statistically non-significant. There was no difference in the HAI of the B antigen. In the TIV + VAX102 arm, the geometric mean M2e antibody concentration was 0.5 µg/ml and 73% seroconverted.
The combination of TIV + VAX102 has the potential to increase the immune response to the influenza A components of TIV and to provide M2e immunity which may protect against influenza A strains not contained in seasonal TIV.
We describe the temporal variation in viral agents detected in influenza like illness (ILI) patients before and after the appearance of the ongoing pandemic influenza A (H1N1) (pH1N1) in Peru between 4-January and 13-July 2009.
At the health centers, one oropharyngeal swab was obtained for viral isolation. From epidemiological week (EW) 1 to 18, at the US Naval Medical Research Center Detachment (NMRCD) in Lima, the specimens were inoculated into four cell lines for virus isolation. In addition, from EW 19 to 28, the specimens were also analyzed by real time-polymerase-chain-reaction (rRT-PCR).
We enrolled 2,872 patients: 1,422 cases before the appearance of the pH1N1 virus, and 1,450 during the pandemic. Non-pH1N1 influenza A virus was the predominant viral strain circulating in Peru through (EW) 18, representing 57.8% of the confirmed cases; however, this predominance shifted to pH1N1 (51.5%) from EW 19–28. During this study period, most of pH1N1 cases were diagnosed in the capital city (Lima) followed by other cities including Cusco and Trujillo. In contrast, novel influenza cases were essentially absent in the tropical rain forest (jungle) cities during our study period. The city of Iquitos (Jungle) had the highest number of influenza B cases and only one pH1N1 case.
The viral distribution in Peru changed upon the introduction of the pH1N1 virus compared to previous months. Although influenza A viruses continue to be the predominant viral pathogen, the pH1N1 virus predominated over the other influenza A viruses.
In the 2003 Toronto SARS outbreak, SARS-CoV was transmitted in hospitals despite adherence to infection control procedures. Considerable controversy resulted regarding which procedures and behaviours were associated with the greatest risk of SARS-CoV transmission.
A retrospective cohort study was conducted to identify risk factors for transmission of SARS-CoV during intubation from laboratory confirmed SARS patients to HCWs involved in their care. All SARS patients requiring intubation during the Toronto outbreak were identified. All HCWs who provided care to intubated SARS patients during treatment or transportation and who entered a patient room or had direct patient contact from 24 hours before to 4 hours after intubation were eligible for this study. Data was collected on patients by chart review and on HCWs by interviewer-administered questionnaire. Generalized estimating equation (GEE) logistic regression models and classification and regression trees (CART) were used to identify risk factors for SARS transmission.
45 laboratory-confirmed intubated SARS patients were identified. Of the 697 HCWs involved in their care, 624 (90%) participated in the study. SARS-CoV was transmitted to 26 HCWs from 7 patients; 21 HCWs were infected by 3 patients. In multivariate GEE logistic regression models, presence in the room during fiberoptic intubation (OR = 2.79, p = .004) or ECG (OR = 3.52, p = .002), unprotected eye contact with secretions (OR = 7.34, p = .001), patient APACHE II score ≥20 (OR = 17.05, p = .009) and patient Pa02/Fi02 ratio ≤59 (OR = 8.65, p = .001) were associated with increased risk of transmission of SARS-CoV. In CART analyses, the four covariates which explained the greatest amount of variation in SARS-CoV transmission were covariates representing individual patients.
Close contact with the airway of severely ill patients and failure of infection control practices to prevent exposure to respiratory secretions were associated with transmission of SARS-CoV. Rates of transmission of SARS-CoV varied widely among patients.
To better understand Zaire ebolavirus (ZEBOV) circulation and transmission to humans, we conducted a large serological survey of rural populations in Gabon, a country characterized by both epidemic and non epidemic regions. The survey lasted three years and covered 4,349 individuals from 220 randomly selected villages, representing 10.7% of all villages in Gabon. Using a sensitive and specific ELISA method, we found a ZEBOV-specific IgG seroprevalence of 15.3% overall, the highest ever reported. The seroprevalence rate was significantly higher in forested areas (19.4%) than in other ecosystems, namely grassland (12.4%), savannah (10.5%), and lakeland (2.7%). No other risk factors for seropositivity were found. The specificity of anti-ZEBOV IgG was confirmed by Western blot in 138 individuals, and CD8 T cells from seven IgG+ individuals were shown to produce IFN-γ after ZEBOV stimulation. Together, these findings show that a large fraction of the human population living in forested areas of Gabon has both humoral and cellular immunity to ZEBOV. In the absence of identified risk factors, the high prevalence of “immune” persons suggests a common source of human exposure such as fruits contaminated by bat saliva. These findings provide significant new insights into ZEBOV circulation and human exposure, and raise important questions as to the human pathogenicity of ZEBOV and the existence of natural protective immunization.
Despite the fact that smallpox eradication was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1980, other poxviruses have emerged and re-emerged, with significant public health and economic impacts. Vaccinia virus (VACV), a poxvirus used during the WHO smallpox vaccination campaign, has been involved in zoonotic infections in Brazilian rural areas (Bovine Vaccinia outbreaks – BV), affecting dairy cattle and milkers. Little is known about VACV's natural hosts and its epidemiological and ecological characteristics. Although VACV was isolated and/or serologically detected in Brazilian wild animals, the link between wildlife and farms has not yet been elucidated.
In this study, we describe for the first time, to our knowledge, the isolation of a VACV (Mariana virus - MARV) from a mouse during a BV outbreak. Genetic data, in association with biological assays, showed that this isolate was the same etiological agent causing exanthematic lesions observed in the cattle and human inhabitants of a particular BV-affected area. Phylogenetic analysis grouped MARV with other VACV isolated during BV outbreaks.
These data provide new biological and epidemiological information on VACV and lead to an interesting question: could peridomestic rodents be the link between wildlife and BV outbreaks?
Monkeypox viruses (MPXV) cause human monkeypox, a zoonotic smallpox-like disease endemic to Africa, and are of worldwide public health and biodefense concern. Using viruses from the Congo (MPXV-2003-Congo-358) and West African (MPXV-2003-USA-044) clades, we constructed recombinant viruses that express the luciferase gene (MPXV-Congo/Luc+and MPXV-USA-Luc+) and compared their viral infection in mice by biophotonic imaging. BALB/c mice became infected by both MPXV clades, but they recovered and cleared the infection within 10 days post-infection (PI). However, infection in severe combined immune deficient (SCID) BALB/c mice resulted in 100% lethality. Intraperitoneal (IP) injection of both MPXV-Congo and MPXV-Congo/Luc+resulted in a systemic clinical disease and the same mean time-to-death at 9 (±0) days post-infection. Likewise, IP injection of SCID-BALB/c mice with MPXV-USA or the MPXV-USA-Luc+, resulted in similar disease but longer (P<0.05) mean time-to-death (11±0 days) for both viruses compared to the Congo strains. Imaging studies in SCID mice showed luminescence in the abdomen within 24 hours PI with subsequent spread elsewhere. Animals infected with the MPXV-USA/Luc+had less intense luminescence in tissues than those inoculated with MPXV-Congo/Luc+, and systemic spread of the MPXV-USA/Luc+virus occurred approximately two days later than the MPXV-Congo/Luc+. The ovary was an important target for viral replication as evidenced by the high viral titers and immunohistochemistry. These studies demonstrate the suitability of a mouse model and biophotonic imaging to compare the disease progression and tissue tropism of MPX viruses.
Rapid and effective detection and identification of emerging microbiological threats and potential biowarfare agents is very challenging when using traditional culture-based methods. Contemporary molecular techniques, relying upon reverse transcription and/or polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR/PCR) provide a rapid and effective alternative, however, such assays are generally designed and optimized to detect only a limited number of targets, and seldom are capable of differentiation among variants of detected targets. To meet these challenges, we have designed a broad-range resequencing pathogen microarray (RPM) for detection of tropical and emerging infectious agents (TEI) including biothreat agents: RPM-TEI v 1.0 (RPM-TEI). The scope of the RPM-TEI assay enables detection and differential identification of 84 types of pathogens and 13 toxin genes, including most of the class A, B and C select agents as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, Atlanta, GA). Due to the high risks associated with handling these particular target pathogens, the sensitivity validation of the RPM-TEI has been performed using an innovative approach, in which synthetic DNA fragments are used as templates for testing the assay's limit of detection (LOD). Assay specificity and sensitivity was subsequently confirmed by testing with full-length genomic nucleic acids of selected agents. The LOD for a majority of the agents detected by RPM-TEI was determined to be at least 104 copies per test. Our results also show that the RPM-TEI assay not only detects and identifies agents, but is also able to differentiate near neighbors of the same agent types, such as closely related strains of filoviruses of the Ebola Zaire group, or the Machupo and Lassa arenaviruses. Furthermore, each RPM-TEI assay results in specimen-specific agent gene sequence information that can be used to assess pathogenicity, mutations, and virulence markers, results that are not generally available from multiplexed RT-PCR/PCR-based detection assays.
Since 2004, 21 highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 outbreaks in domestic poultry and eight human cases have been confirmed in Cambodia. As a result, a large number of avian influenza education campaigns have been ongoing in provinces in which H5N1outbreaks have occurred in humans and/or domestic poultry.
Data were collected from 1,252 adults >15 years old living in two southern provinces in Cambodia where H5N1 has been confirmed in domestic poultry and human populations using two cross-sectional surveys conducted in January 2006 and in November/December 2007. Poultry handling behaviors, poultry mortality occurrence and self-reported notification of suspect H5N1 poultry cases to animal health officials in these two surveys were evaluated. Our results demonstrate that although some at risk practices have declined since the first study, risky contact with poultry is still frequent. Improved rates of reporting poultry mortality were observed overall, but reporting to trained village animal health workers decreased by approximately 50%.
Although some improvements in human behavior have occurred, there are still areas—particularly with respect to the handling of poultry among children and the proper treatment of poultry and the surrounding household environment—that need to be addressed in public health campaigns. Though there were some differences in the sampling methods of the 2006 and 2007 surveys, our results illustrate the potential to induce considerable, potentially very relevant, behavioral changes over a short period of time.
Migratory birds have evolved elaborate physiological adaptations to travelling, the implications for their susceptibility to avian influenza are however unknown. Three groups of stonechats (Saxicola torquata) from (I) strongly migrating, (II) weakly migrating and (III) non-migrating populations were experimentally infected with HPAIV H5N1. The different bird groups of this insectivorous passerine species were infected in autumn, when the migrating populations clearly exhibit migratory restlessness. Following infection, all animals succumbed to the disease from 3 through 7 days post inoculation. Viral shedding, antigen distribution in tissues, and survival time did not differ between the three populations. However, notably, endothelial tropism of the HPAIV infection was exclusively seen in the group of resident birds. In conclusion, our data document for the first time the high susceptibility of an insectivorous passerine species to H5N1 infection, and the epidemiological role of these passerine birds is probably limited due to their high sensitivity to HPAIV H5N1 infection. Despite pronounced inherited differences in migratory status, the groups were generally indistinguishable in their susceptibility, survival time, clinical symptoms and viral shedding. Nevertheless, the migratory status partly influenced pathogenesis in the way of viral tropism.
Surveillance for influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) is important for guiding public health prevention programs to mitigate the morbidity and mortality caused by influenza, including pandemic influenza. Nontraditional sources of data for influenza and ILI surveillance are of interest to public health authorities if their validity can be established.
National telephone triage call data were collected through automated means for purposes of syndromic surveillance. For the 17 states with at least 500,000 inhabitants eligible to use the telephone triage services, call volume for respiratory syndrome was compared to CDC weekly number of influenza isolates and percentage of visits to sentinel providers for ILI. The degree to which the call data were correlated with either CDC viral isolates or sentinel provider percentage ILI data was highly variable among states.
Telephone triage data in the U.S. are patchy in coverage and therefore not a reliable source of ILI surveillance data on a national scale. However, in states displaying a higher correlation between the call data and the CDC data, call data may be useful as an adjunct to state-level surveillance data, for example at times when sentinel surveillance is not in operation or in areas where sentinel provider coverage is considered insufficient. Sufficient population coverage, a specific ILI syndrome definition, and the use of a threshold of percentage of calls that are for ILI would likely improve the utility of such data for ILI surveillance purposes.
In the absence of other evidence, modelling has been used extensively to help policy makers plan for a potential future influenza pandemic.
We have constructed an individual based model of a small community in the developed world with detail down to exact household structure obtained from census collection datasets and precise simulation of household demographics, movement within the community and individual contact patterns. We modelled the spread of pandemic influenza in this community and the effect on daily and final attack rates of four social distancing measures: school closure, increased case isolation, workplace non-attendance and community contact reduction. We compared the modelled results of final attack rates in the absence of any interventions and the effect of school closure as a single intervention with other published individual based models of pandemic influenza in the developed world.
We showed that published individual based models estimate similar final attack rates over a range of values for R0 in a pandemic where no interventions have been implemented; that multiple social distancing measures applied early and continuously can be very effective in interrupting transmission of the pandemic virus for R0 values up to 2.5; and that different conclusions reached on the simulated benefit of school closure in published models appear to result from differences in assumptions about the timing and duration of school closure and flow-on effects on other social contacts resulting from school closure.
Models of the spread and control of pandemic influenza have the potential to assist policy makers with decisions about which control strategies to adopt. However, attention needs to be given by policy makers to the assumptions underpinning both the models and the control strategies examined.
While human cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) virus infection continue to increase globally, available clinical data on H5N1 cases are limited. We conducted a retrospective study of 26 confirmed human H5N1 cases identified through surveillance in China from October 2005 through April 2008.
Data were collected from hospital medical records of H5N1 cases and analyzed. The median age was 29 years (range 6–62) and 58% were female. Many H5N1 cases reported fever (92%) and cough (58%) at illness onset, and had lower respiratory findings of tachypnea and dyspnea at admission. All cases progressed rapidly to bilateral pneumonia. Clinical complications included acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS, 81%), cardiac failure (50%), elevated aminotransaminases (43%), and renal dysfunction (17%). Fatal cases had a lower median nadir platelet count (64.5×109 cells/L vs 93.0×109 cells/L, p = 0.02), higher median peak lactic dehydrogenase (LDH) level (1982.5 U/L vs 1230.0 U/L, p = 0.001), higher percentage of ARDS (94% [n = 16] vs 56% [n = 5], p = 0.034) and more frequent cardiac failure (71% [n = 12] vs 11% [n = 1], p = 0.011) than nonfatal cases. A higher proportion of patients who received antiviral drugs survived compared to untreated (67% [8/12] vs 7% [1/14], p = 0.003).
The clinical course of Chinese H5N1 cases is characterized by fever and cough initially, with rapid progression to lower respiratory disease. Decreased platelet count, elevated LDH level, ARDS and cardiac failure were associated with fatal outcomes. Clinical management of H5N1 cases should be standardized in China to include early antiviral treatment for suspected H5N1 cases.
Henipaviruses are emerging RNA viruses of fruit bat origin that can cause fatal encephalitis in man. Ghanaian fruit bats (megachiroptera) were tested for antibodies to henipaviruses. Using a Luminex multiplexed microsphere assay, antibodies were detected in sera of Eidolon helvum to both Nipah (39%, 95% confidence interval: 27–51%) and Hendra (22%, 95% CI: 11–33%) viruses. Virus neutralization tests further confirmed seropositivity for 30% (7/23) of Luminex positive serum samples. Our results indicate that henipavirus is present within West Africa.
Wide-scale use of antiviral agents in the event of an influenza pandemic is likely to promote the emergence of drug resistance, with potentially deleterious effects for outbreak control. We explored factors promoting resistance within a dynamic infection model, and considered ways in which one or two drugs might be distributed to delay the spread of resistant strains or mitigate their impact.
Methods and Findings
We have previously developed a novel deterministic model of influenza transmission that simulates treatment and targeted contact prophylaxis, using a limited stockpile of antiviral agents. This model was extended to incorporate subclinical infections, and the emergence of resistant virus strains under the selective pressure imposed by various uses of one or two antiviral agents. For a fixed clinical attack rate, R0 rises with the proportion of subclinical infections thus reducing the number of infections amenable to treatment or prophylaxis. In consequence, outbreak control is more difficult, but emergence of drug resistance is relatively uncommon. Where an epidemic may be constrained by use of a single antiviral agent, strategies that combine treatment and prophylaxis are most effective at controlling transmission, at the cost of facilitating the spread of resistant viruses. If two drugs are available, using one drug for treatment and the other for prophylaxis is more effective at preventing propagation of mutant strains than either random allocation or drug cycling strategies. Our model is relatively straightforward, and of necessity makes a number of simplifying assumptions. Our results are, however, consistent with the wider body of work in this area and are able to place related research in context while extending the analysis of resistance emergence and optimal drug use within the constraints of a finite drug stockpile.
Combined treatment and prophylaxis represents optimal use of antiviral agents to control transmission, at the cost of drug resistance. Where two drugs are available, allocating different drugs to cases and contacts is likely to be most effective at constraining resistance emergence in a pandemic scenario.
Since late 2003, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks caused by infection with H5N1 virus has led to the deaths of millions of poultry and more than 10 thousands of wild birds, and as of 18-March 2008, at least 373 laboratory-confirmed human infections with 236 fatalities, have occurred. The unrestrained worldwide spread of this disease has caused great anxiety about the potential of another global pandemic. However, the effect of environmental factors influencing the spread of HPAI H5N1 virus is unclear.
A database including incident dates and locations was developed for 128 confirmed HPAI H5N1 outbreaks in poultry and wild birds, as well as 21 human cases in mainland China during 2004–2006. These data, together with information on wild bird migration, poultry densities, and environmental variables (water bodies, wetlands, transportation routes, main cities, precipitation and elevation), were integrated into a Geographical Information System (GIS). A case-control design was used to identify the environmental factors associated with the incidence of the disease. Multivariate logistic regression analysis indicated that minimal distance to the nearest national highway, annual precipitation and the interaction between minimal distance to the nearest lake and wetland, were important predictive environmental variables for the risk of HPAI. A risk map was constructed based on these factors.
Our study indicates that environmental factors contribute to the spread of the disease. The risk map can be used to target countermeasures to stop further spread of the HPAI H5N1 at its source.
Little is known about the effect of physical exercise on influenza-associated mortality.
Methods and Findings
We collected information about exercise habits and other lifestyles, and socioeconomic and demographic status, the underlying cause of death of 24,656 adults (21% aged 30–64, 79% aged 65 or above) who died in 1998 in Hong Kong, and the weekly proportion of specimens positive for influenza A (H3N1 and H1N1) and B isolations during the same period. We assessed the excess risks (ER) of influenza-associated mortality due to all-natural causes, cardiovascular diseases, or respiratory disease among different levels of exercise: never/seldom (less than once per month), low/moderate (once per month to three times per week), and frequent (four times or more per week) by Poisson regression. We also assessed the differences in ER between exercise groups by case-only logistic regression. For all the mortality outcomes under study in relation to each 10% increase in weekly proportion of specimens positive for influenza A+B, never/seldom exercise (as reference) was associated with 5.8% to 8.5% excess risks (ER) of mortality (P<0.0001), while low/moderate exercise was associated with ER which were 4.2% to 6.4% lower than those of the reference (P<0.001 for all-natural causes; P = 0.001 for cardiovascular; and P = 0.07 for respiratory mortality). Frequent exercise was not different from the reference (change in ER −0.8% to 1.7%, P = 0.30 to 0.73).
When compared with never or seldom exercise, exercising at low to moderate frequency is beneficial with lower influenza-associated mortality.