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BACKGROUND: A recrudescent wave of pandemic influenza A/H1N1 is underway in Mexico in winter 2013-14, following a mild 2012-13 A/H3N2 influenza season. Mexico previously experienced several waves of pandemic A/H1N1 activity in spring, summer and fall 2009 and winter 2011-2012, with a gradual shift of influenza-related hospitalizations and deaths towards older ages. Here we describe changes in the epidemiology of the 2013-14 A/H1N1 influenza outbreak, relative to previous seasons dominated by the A/H1N1 pandemic virus. The analysis is intended to guide public health intervention strategies in near real time.

METHODS: We analyzed demographic and geographic data on hospitalizations with severe acute respiratory infection (SARI), laboratory-confirmed A/H1N1 influenza hospitalizations, and inpatient deaths, from a large prospective surveillance system maintained by the Mexican Social Security medical system during 01-October 2013 to 31-Jan 2014. We characterized the age and regional patterns of influenza activity relative to the preceding 2011-2012 A/H1N1 influenza epidemic. We also estimated the reproduction number (R) based on the growth rate of daily case incidence by date of symptoms onset.

RESULTS: A total of 7,886 SARI hospitalizations and 529 inpatient-deaths (3.2%) were reported between 01-October 2013 and 31-January 2014 (resulting in 3.2 laboratory-confirmed A/H1N1 hospitalizations per 100,00 and 0.52 laboratory-confirmed A/H1N1-positive deaths per 100,000). The progression of daily SARI hospitalizations in 2013-14 exceeded that observed during the 2011-2012 A/H1N1 epidemic. The mean age of laboratory-confirmed A/H1N1 patients in 2013-14 was 41.1 y (SD=20.3) for hospitalizations and 49.2 y (SD=16.7) for deaths. Rates of laboratory-confirmed A/H1N1 hospitalizations and deaths were significantly higher among individuals aged 30-59 y and lower among younger age groups for the ongoing 2013-2014 epidemic, compared to the 2011-12 A/H1N1 epidemic (Chi-square test, P<0.001). The reproduction number of the winter 2013-14 wave in central Mexico was estimated at 1.3-1.4 which is slightly higher than that reported for the 2011-2012 A/H1N1 epidemic.

CONCLUSIONS: We have documented a substantial and ongoing increase in the number of A/H1N1-related hospitalizations and deaths during the period October 2013-January 2014 and a proportionate shift of severe disease to middle aged adults, relative to the preceding A/H1N1 2011-2012 epidemic in Mexico. In the absence of clear antigenic drift in globally circulating A/H1N1 viruses in the post-pandemic period, the gradual change in the age distribution of A/H1N1 infections observed in Mexico suggests a slow build-up of immunity among younger populations, reminiscent of the age profile of past pandemics.


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Dávila J, Chowell G, Borja-Aburto VH, Viboud C, Grajales Muñiz C, Miller M. Substantial Morbidity and Mortality Associated with Pandemic A/H1N1 Influenza in Mexico, Winter 2013-2014: Gradual Age Shift and Severity. PLOS Currents Outbreaks. 2014 Mar 26 . Edition 1. doi: 10.1371/currents.outbreaks.a855a92f19db1d90ca955f5e908d6631.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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