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Rare Occurrence of Humans Harboring Two Flu Strains Simultaneously in Global Flu Hot-Spot

By American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

While dual infections in Cambodia did not produce new strain, study cites need for continuous tracking against risk of different influenza viruses combining to create a new pandemic.

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Researchers conducting influenza-like illness surveillance in Cambodia have confirmed a rare incidence of individuals becoming infected with a seasonal influenza and the pandemic strain at the same time, a reminder of the ongoing risk of distinct flu viruses combining in human hosts to produce a more lethal strain, according to a report in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. A pandemic strain is a type of flu against which people have little or no natural immunity.

While the individuals recovered and the two strains did not recombine into a new and different virus, experts say coinfections in Southeast Asia deserve particularly close scrutiny given the ongoing transmission of the deadly avian influenza virus H5N1 and circulation of the pandemic H1N1 influenza that first emerged in 2009. The report comes as flu season gets underway in the United States, and while Cambodia and other tropical parts of Asia are reporting continued flu activity.

As of October 10, 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) had tallied 566 known human infections with H5N1 and 332 deaths for a fatality rate of over 60 percent. In Cambodia, 16 of 18 infected individuals have died, with the most recent case reported in August. Thus far the virus has shown a very limited ability to pass from human to human—almost all the infections have been traced to contact with sick...

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