Impact of the novel influenza A (H1N1) during the 2009 autumn-winter season in a large hospital setting in Santiago, Chile

Juan Pablo Torres, Miguel O'Ryan, Beatrice Herve, Ricardo Espinoza, Guillermo Acuña, Jaime Mañalich, May Chomalí

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63 Scopus citations


Background: In Chile, the novel influenza A (H1N1) epidemic began in the middle-high income area of Santiago. Clinical and laboratory surveillance was intensified with the aim to characterize the epidemic and determine its impact in a large hospital setting. Methods: Demographic and clinical data were obtained from all patients whose symptoms met the clinical definition of influenza A (H1N1) infection during the epidemic period. Laboratory confirmation was obtained by use of a nasopharyngeal antigen detection test for influenza A and/or influenza A (H1N1) polymerase chain reaction (PCR). A case was considered confirmed if the antigen detection test result for influenza A and/or the PCR test result were positive. Results: The total number of emergency department (ED) visits increased by 88.5% from a mean of 14,489 ED visits in 2006-2008 to a mean of 27,308 ED visits in 2009, during the epidemic period. There were 10,048 patients who were clinically diagnosed with influenza A (HlNl), and they represented 78% of all visits, of which 4591 (45.6%) were laboratory confirmed. The median time from symptom onset to diagnosis was 1 day, and 99.7% of individuals received antiviral treatment. School-aged children represented 67% of ED visits at the beginning of the epidemic and 24% of ED visits at the end of the epidemic. Only 2% of cases were hospitalized; of these, 70% of cases occurred in patients 6-50 years of age, and 32% of cases occurred in patients who had an underlying medical condition. Eleven patients (age range, 1-53 years) required admission to the intensive care unit (ICU); 6 of these patients had pneumonia with or without hemodynamic shock. No influenza-associated deaths occurred. Conclusions: Many cases of influenza A (H1N1) occurred in school-aged and adult individuals who required an ED visit; these visits resulted in a low impact on the use of hospital beds. Aggressive ICU management and/ or experience in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation significantly improved outcomes. Early antiviral treatment may have played an important role in the low number of severe cases. Vaccines targeted for school-aged children and young adults may modify the first epidemic wave in the northern hemisphere.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Pages (from-to)860-868
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number6
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2010


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