The good news, based on the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of October 13, 2012, cases for influenza in the United States remains to be low and it has been over the previous weeks. Currently, we are only looking at 3.9% incidences (from the previous week) or a total of 129 patients tested positive for the virus. The same types of viruses for influenza were identified this year such as H3N2v, H1N2v and H1N1, member of influenza A and Influenza B viruses. Over-all, the influenza key indicators are still at acceptable level. The ratio of visits to doctors due to influenza-like illness is still below the national baseline despite one incident of pediatric death reported from still an unknown strain of Influenza A virus.
Although the figures are showing an acceptable rate at this time, flu season is not yet over so the chances of the number to increase is still a possibility. And though there are no new viruses identified so far, the latest discovery by a group of scientists in the United States served as a warning not to be reluctant as H3N8 virus previously endemic in birds, horses and dogs have made a new milestone by moving to another set of species. Causing the deaths of 162 harbour seals in New England, experts have reasons to believe that human transmission can happen anytime. If this happens, we will be looking on another strain, with the complications we are yet to discover.
The virus was discovered to have mutated from targeting other species to mammals. The seal served as the mixing vessel for the virus, the very same thing that happened to pigs during the swine flu outbreak. The mixing vessel will be a place where the virus can evolve, adapt and become more susceptible to cause disease in mammals- humans especially. One doctor commented the H3N8 as a “worry” since we still don’t know how the human body will react to the new flu virus. Fever of 102.5- 105.0 degrees Fahrenheit, runny nose, cough for several weeks and bacterial infection can be the symptoms for animals infected but it can be different for humans. Symptoms on seal however are more severe developing immediate complication such as pneumonia and skin lesions. The death occurred to seals that are less than 6 years old. Another cause of the worry is the findings that this type is capable of targeting a protein found in the human respiratory tract. With the latest discovery, scientists have become more open to the fact that the flu virus can emerge from any location and with any type of species.
The discovery is a proof that wildlife surveillance must be conducted periodically as most of the influenza viruses discovered in the recent years are emerging from the domestic or wildlife animals. Examples of these viruses are: SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), NIPA, West Nile, HIV/AIDS and of course, the influenza. Aside from formulating the flu vaccines yearly, another pro-active approach which can help prevent the spread of another influenza strain is critical monitoring of any domestic animals or wildlife outbreak of disease. Influenza has proven to be a very aggressive virus jumping from one species to the next and mutating from the most unexpected places.