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Media Advisory

For Immediate Release: Updated July 2, 1999
Contact: Media Relations (404) 639-3286

Summertime flu outbreak among Alaska tourists

WHO:

CDC and Health Canada

WHAT:

Summertime influenza A activity and prevention and control recommendations for summer travelers

WHERE:

Land tours and cruise ships in Alaska and Yukon Territory

WHY:

Travelers 65 years of age or older and those with chronic health conditions are at greater risk of serious complications and death from influenza A.

HOW:

CDC Travel Advisory: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/june99.htm

BACKGROUND:

CDC and Health Canada advise health care providers to inform their patients -- who are 65 years of age or older or who have chronic health problems such as diabetes and cardiac and pulmonary disease -- who plan to travel to Alaska and the Yukon Territory this summer about the symptoms and risk of influenza and the advisability of carrying antiviral medication to prevent or treat influenza A.

Tourists and tourist industry workers in the area are reporting acute respiratory infection with cough and fever (428 cases among tourists and 104 cases among tourism workers from May 22 through June 29). Laboratory evidence suggests that influenza A infection is largely the cause of illness. To date, no deaths have been reported; however, four tourists have been hospitalized for pneumonia.

In response to this regional influenza A activity, Alaska, the Yukon Territory, British Columbia and certain cruise lines have implemented surveillance for summertime respiratory illness. Like last year's summertime outbreak in this region, influenza appears to be mainly transmitted during the land portion of travel among tourists on combination land and sea tours and among tourist industry workers. Some cruise lines initiated policies to vaccinate crew members before the tourist season in an effort to decrease the transmission of influenza by crew members to new groups of travelers who may not be vaccinated.

Antiviral medications can reduce the duration of influenza A illness if administered within 48 hours of symptom onset. Recently, rapid diagnostic testing for influenza A antigen has become available to assess the need for antiviral use in patients. More information is available on the CDC Internet site: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/june99.htm

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

 
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