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
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 SITEAM@cdc.gov.
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