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July 26, 1999

Update: Summertime Flu Outbreak Among Alaska Tourists

ALASKA (SafetyAlerts) -- The influenza A outbreak first reported in late June is continuing to occur among tourists visiting Alaska and the Yukon Territory. Cases of respiratory illness have continued to occur among travelers and tourist industry workers in the region.

CDC and Health Canada continue to recommend that   persons 65 years and older or those who have chronic health problems (such as diabetes, lung or heart conditions) or weak immune systems are at high-risk for complications of flu and should see their health-care provider before they travel.

Health-care providers should inform patients who are at high-risk from complications of flu and who plan to travel to this region about both the symptoms and potential complications of influenza. Providers should also discuss with these patients whether they should carry antiviral medication to either prevent or treat influenza A. Antiviral medication (rimantadine or amantadine) can shorten influenza A illness if given within 48 hours of becoming ill. Rapid diagnostic tests are available that can be used to diagnose influenza A infection.

In summer 1998, another outbreak of influenza A was identified among Alaska and Yukon Territory tourists and tourist industry workers. It continued until the end of the tourist season. As in the outbreak last summer, many travelers who are visiting the area on combination land-sea tours are becoming ill on land before boarding cruise ships. Laboratory surveillance has identified influenza A (H3N2) Sydney-like virus as the cause of most illnesses. This strain is similar to the predominant influenza virus that circulated in the United States during the 1998-99 influenza season.

As the 1999-2000 influenza vaccine becomes available in the United States, persons at high risk for complications of influenza should be offered influenza vaccine at least two weeks before they travel, if they were not vaccinated during the previous fall or winter.

Health-care providers may continue to report cases of illness to the Special Investigation Team, telephone (907) 729-3431, fax (907) 729-3429, or e-mail


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