Seroepidemiologic investigation of an outbreak of pandemic influenza A H1N1 2009 aboard a US Navy Vessel—San Diego, 2009

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Abstract

Background

During summer 2009, a US Navy ship experienced an influenza-like illness outbreak with 126 laboratory-confirmed cases of pandemic influenza A (H1N1) 2009 virus among the approximately 2000-person crew.

Methods

During September 24–October 9, 2009, a retrospective seroepidemiologic investigation was conducted to characterize the outbreak. We administered questionnaires, reviewed medical records, and collected post-outbreak sera from systematically sampled crewmembers. We used real-time reverse transcription-PCR or microneutralization assays to detect evidence of H1N1 virus infection.

Results

Retrospective serologic data demonstrated that the overall H1N1 virus infection attack rate was 32%. Weighted H1N1 virus attack rates were higher among marines (37%), junior-ranking personnel (34%), and persons aged 19–24 years (36%). In multivariable analysis, a higher risk of illness was found for women versus men (odds ratio [OR] = 2·2; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1·1–4·4), marines versus navy personnel (OR = 1·7; 95% CI, 1·0–2·9), and those aged 19–24 versus ≥35 years (OR = 3·9; 95% CI, 1·2–12·8). Fifty-three percent of infected persons did not recall respiratory illness symptoms. Among infected persons, only 35% met criteria for acute respiratory illness and 11% for influenza-like illness.

Conclusions

Approximately half of H1N1 infections were asymptomatic, and thus, the attack rate was higher than estimated by clinical illness alone. Enhanced infection control measures including pre-embarkation illness screening, improved self-reporting of illness, isolation of ill and quarantine of exposed contacts, and prompt antiviral chemoprophylaxis and treatment might be useful in controlling shipboard influenza outbreaks.

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