H1N1 virus has not mutated, study shows

By Tom Moberly, 10 January 2011

The H1N1 flu virus in circulation is the same genetically as that seen last year and does not differ across cases, HPA analysis suggests.

Researchers have undertaken a virological analysis of fatal influenza cases in the UK during the early wave of this year’s flu season. Their findings are published on online in Eurosurveillance.

They found that the virological picture is complex, with many strains of influenza virus circulating. However, they found no antigenic change in the influenza A(H1N1)2009 virus.

There were also ‘no immediately obvious genetic differences’ between viruses recovered from fatal cases and those causing mild illness, the researchers said.

‘The picture of the illness associated with influenza A(H1N1)2009 infection is consistent with what was seen in the 2009 pandemic, with a similar demographic impact, particularly affecting children and young adults,’ they added.

The researchers also stress the importance of vaccination in preventing illness. ‘Most of those with severe illness, and those dying, have not previously been vaccinated against influenza and have not had the benefit of the early use of antiviral drugs,’ they said.

‘Countries in Europe yet to experience substantial influenza activity this winter may wish to take all reasonable measures to increase the uptake of seasonal influenza vaccine in those at high risk of the complications of influenza and to ensure that antiviral drugs are readily available for those who are either severely ill or at increased risk of severe illness from influenza.’

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