ATLANTA - More than 400 travelers to Alaska and the Yukon Territory have contracted the flu, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The outbreak appears to be affecting travelers rather than local residents. Tourists are reporting respiratory illness with fever and associated pneumonia. The incidents occurred among people regardless of whether they traveled with a tour or independently and have occurred on both cruise and land travel packages.
Common symptoms included fever and cough, and laboratory evidence suggested that influenza A infection may be a cause of many of the illnesses, according to the CDC. Summertime outbreaks of influenza A have previously been reported among tourists in the United States and Canada.
From June 5 through Aug. 4, 419 cases of acute respiratory infection (ARI), including 20 cases of pneumonia were reported to an investigation team in Anchorage, Alaska. There were no deaths.
The infection affected people from 3 to 88 years, but the median age of people with ARI was 63 years. The pneumonia occurred in older adults from 61 to 88 years.
Many cases were clustered, particularly among groups of 40 to 50 passengers sharing common transportation and accommodation packages on overland tours between Anchorage and Skagway or Anchorage and Seward, according to the CDC. Affected passengers traveled during June or July on several different tours from different companies. "Information from case reports suggests that after touring inland, ill people are boarding cruise ships, possibly resulting in further spread. In some instances, travelers are becoming ill and seeking medical attention for their respiratory illnesses only after returning home," the report said.
Between June and September, about 70,000 overland tour and cruise ship passengers visit Alaska and the Yukon Territory each week, according to the CDC.
The CDC did not recommend any special preventive measures for travelers in good health. "Health care providers who see patients with febrile respiratory illness and/or pneumonia should obtain a travel history and consider influenza A in the differential diagnosis for those with recent travel to Alaska or the Yukon Territory," the CDC said.
For your information:
- CDC. Outbreak of influenza A infection - Alaska and Yukon Territory - June-July 1998. MMWR 1998;47;638.
- Miller J, Tam T, Afif C, et al. Influenza A outbreak on a cruise ship. Canada Communicable Disease Report 1998;24:9-11.
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