We investigated a large summertime outbreak of acute respiratory illness during May-September 1998 in Alaska and the Yukon Territory, Canada. Surveillance for acute respiratory illness (ARI), influenza-like illness (ILI), and pneumonia conducted at 31 hospital, clinic, and cruise ship infirmary sites identified 5361 cases of ARI (including 2864 cases of ILI [53%] and 171 cases of pneumonia [3.2%]) occurring primarily in tourists and tourism workers (from 18 and 37 countries, respectively). Influenza A viruses were isolated from 41 of 210 patients with ILI at 8 of 14 land sites and 8 of 17 cruise ship infirmaries. Twenty-two influenza isolates were antigenically characterized, and all were influenza A/Sydney/05/97-like (H3N2) viruses. No other predominant pathogens were identified. We estimated that >33,000 cases of ARI might have occurred during this protracted outbreak, which was attributed primarily to influenza A/Sydney/05/97-like (H3N2) viruses. Modern travel patterns may facilitate similar outbreaks, indicating the need for increased awareness about influenza by health care providers and travelers and the desirability of year-round influenza surveillance in some regions.
Journal Article. 4437 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: Infectious Diseases ; Immunology ; Public Health and Epidemiology ; Microbiology
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