Prof Peter Horby

Research Area: Global Health
Scientific Themes: Tropical Medicine & Global Health
Keywords: Public health, influenza, emerging infections, epidemiology, antibiotic resistance, Ebola and outbreak research
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Predicted geographic spread of swine-origin influenza A (H1N1) in Vietnam.  Medians from 1000 model simulations.

Predicted geographic spread of swine-origin influenza A (H1N1) in Vietnam. Medians from 1000 model ...

Training on taking swabs for a household-based influenza transmission study.

Training on taking swabs for a household-based influenza transmission study.

Peter Horby is Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Global Health.  He is the former, and founding, Director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Hanoi, Vietnam. The unit was established in early 2006 and conducts research on infectious diseases which crosses the disciplines of basic science, medical science and public health.

Peter returned to Oxford in 2014 and established the Epidemic disease Research Group Oxford (ERGO). ERGO is engaged in an international program of clinical and epidemiological research to prepare for and respond to emerging infections that may develop into epidemics or pandemics. ERGO is involved in a number of international projects including the European Commission funded PREPARE project, and the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC). The group is conducting research on a range of epidemic diseases including Ebola virus disease, bird flu (H5N1 and H7N9), MERS-CoV, and Enterovirus 71. ERGO currently comprises a team of eight people under the leadership of Professor Peter Horby and is funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council, and the European Commission.

There are no collaborations listed for this principal investigator.

Cooper BS, Boni MF, Pan-ngum W, Day NP, Horby PW, Olliaro P, Lang T, White NJ, White LJ, Whitehead J. 2015. Evaluating clinical trial designs for investigational treatments of Ebola virus disease. PLoS Med, 12 (4), pp. e1001815. Read abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Experimental treatments for Ebola virus disease (EVD) might reduce EVD mortality. There is uncertainty about the ability of different clinical trial designs to identify effective treatments, and about the feasibility of implementing individually randomised controlled trials during an Ebola epidemic. METHODS AND FINDINGS: A treatment evaluation programme for use in EVD was devised using a multi-stage approach (MSA) with two or three stages, including both non-randomised and randomised elements. The probabilities of rightly or wrongly recommending the experimental treatment, the required sample size, and the consequences for epidemic outcomes over 100 d under two epidemic scenarios were compared for the MSA, a sequential randomised controlled trial (SRCT) with up to 20 interim analyses, and, as a reference case, a conventional randomised controlled trial (RCT) without interim analyses. Assuming 50% 14-d survival in the population treated with the current standard of supportive care, all designs had similar probabilities of identifying effective treatments correctly, while the MSA was less likely to recommend treatments that were ineffective. The MSA led to a smaller number of cases receiving ineffective treatments and faster roll-out of highly effective treatments. For less effective treatments, the MSA had a high probability of including an RCT component, leading to a somewhat longer time to roll-out or rejection. Assuming 100 new EVD cases per day, the MSA led to between 6% and 15% greater reductions in epidemic mortality over the first 100 d for highly effective treatments compared to the SRCT. Both the MSA and SRCT led to substantially fewer deaths than a conventional RCT if the tested interventions were either highly effective or harmful. In the proposed MSA, the major threat to the validity of the results of the non-randomised components is that referral patterns, standard of care, or the virus itself may change during the study period in ways that affect mortality. Adverse events are also harder to quantify without a concurrent control group. CONCLUSIONS: The MSA discards ineffective treatments quickly, while reliably providing evidence concerning effective treatments. The MSA is appropriate for the clinical evaluation of EVD treatments. Hide abstract

Fonville JM, Wilks SH, James SL, Fox A, Ventresca M, Aban M, Xue L, Jones TC et al. 2014. Antibody landscapes after influenza virus infection or vaccination. Science, 346 (6212), pp. 996-1000. Read abstract | Read more

We introduce the antibody landscape, a method for the quantitative analysis of antibody-mediated immunity to antigenically variable pathogens, achieved by accounting for antigenic variation among pathogen strains. We generated antibody landscapes to study immune profiles covering 43 years of influenza A/H3N2 virus evolution for 69 individuals monitored for infection over 6 years and for 225 individuals pre- and postvaccination. Upon infection and vaccination, titers increased broadly, including previously encountered viruses far beyond the extent of cross-reactivity observed after a primary infection. We explored implications for vaccination and found that the use of an antigenically advanced virus had the dual benefit of inducing antibodies against both advanced and previous antigenic clusters. These results indicate that preemptive vaccine updates may improve influenza vaccine efficacy in previously exposed individuals. Hide abstract

Cauchemez S, Ferguson NM, Fox A, Mai LEQ, Thanh LET, Thai PQ, Thoang DD, Duong TN, Minh Hoa LEN, Tran Hien N, Horby P. 2014. Determinants of influenza transmission in South East Asia: insights from a household cohort study in Vietnam. PLoS Pathog, 10 (8), pp. e1004310. Read abstract | Read more

To guide control policies, it is important that the determinants of influenza transmission are fully characterized. Such assessment is complex because the risk of influenza infection is multifaceted and depends both on immunity acquired naturally or via vaccination and on the individual level of exposure to influenza in the community or in the household. Here, we analyse a large household cohort study conducted in 2007-2010 in Vietnam using innovative statistical methods to ascertain in an integrative framework the relative contribution of variables that influence the transmission of seasonal (H1N1, H3N2, B) and pandemic H1N1pdm09 influenza. Influenza infection was diagnosed by haemagglutination-inhibition (HI) antibody assay of paired serum samples. We used a Bayesian data augmentation Markov chain Monte Carlo strategy based on digraphs to reconstruct unobserved chains of transmission in households and estimate transmission parameters. The probability of transmission from an infected individual to another household member was 8% (95% CI, 6%, 10%) on average, and varied with pre-season titers, age and household size. Within households of size 3, the probability of transmission from an infected member to a child with low pre-season HI antibody titers was 27% (95% CI 21%-35%). High pre-season HI titers were protective against infection, with a reduction in the hazard of infection of 59% (95% CI, 44%-71%) and 87% (95% CI, 70%-96%) for intermediate (1∶20-1∶40) and high (≥1∶80) HI titers, respectively. Even after correcting for pre-season HI titers, adults had half the infection risk of children. Twenty six percent (95% CI: 21%, 30%) of infections may be attributed to household transmission. Our results highlight the importance of integrated analysis by influenza sub-type, age and pre-season HI titers in order to infer influenza transmission risks in and outside of the household. Hide abstract

Cauchemez S, Horby P, Fox A, Mai LEQ, Thanh LET, Thai PQ, Hoa LENM, Hien NT, Ferguson NM. 2012. Influenza infection rates, measurement errors and the interpretation of paired serology. PLoS Pathog, 8 (12), pp. e1003061. Read abstract | Read more

Serological studies are the gold standard method to estimate influenza infection attack rates (ARs) in human populations. In a common protocol, blood samples are collected before and after the epidemic in a cohort of individuals; and a rise in haemagglutination-inhibition (HI) antibody titers during the epidemic is considered as a marker of infection. Because of inherent measurement errors, a 2-fold rise is usually considered as insufficient evidence for infection and seroconversion is therefore typically defined as a 4-fold rise or more. Here, we revisit this widely accepted 70-year old criterion. We develop a Markov chain Monte Carlo data augmentation model to quantify measurement errors and reconstruct the distribution of latent true serological status in a Vietnamese 3-year serological cohort, in which replicate measurements were available. We estimate that the 1-sided probability of a 2-fold error is 9.3% (95% Credible Interval, CI: 3.3%, 17.6%) when antibody titer is below 10 but is 20.2% (95% CI: 15.9%, 24.0%) otherwise. After correction for measurement errors, we find that the proportion of individuals with 2-fold rises in antibody titers was too large to be explained by measurement errors alone. Estimates of ARs vary greatly depending on whether those individuals are included in the definition of the infected population. A simulation study shows that our method is unbiased. The 4-fold rise case definition is relevant when aiming at a specific diagnostic for individual cases, but the justification is less obvious when the objective is to estimate ARs. In particular, it may lead to large underestimates of ARs. Determining which biological phenomenon contributes most to 2-fold rises in antibody titers is essential to assess bias with the traditional case definition and offer improved estimates of influenza ARs. Hide abstract

Horby P, Mai LQ, Fox A, Thai PQ, Thi Thu Yen N, Thanh LT, Le Khanh Hang N, Duong TN et al. 2012. The epidemiology of interpandemic and pandemic influenza in Vietnam, 2007-2010 American Journal of Epidemiology, 175 (10), pp. 1062-1074. Read abstract | Read more

Prospective community-based studies have provided fundamental insights into the epidemiology of influenza in temperate regions, but few comparable studies have been undertaken in the tropics. The authors conducted prospective influenza surveillance and intermittent seroprevalence surveys in a household-based cohort in Vietnam between December 2007 and April 2010, resulting in 1,793 person-seasons of influenza surveillance. Age-and sex-standardized estimates of the risk of acquiring any influenza infection per season in persons 5 years of age or older were 21.1% (95% confidence interval: 17.4, 24.7) in season 1, 26.4% (95% confidence interval: 22.6, 30.2) in season 2, and 17.0% (95% confidence interval: 13.6, 20.4) in season 3. Some individuals experienced multiple episodes of infection with different influenza types/subtypes in the same season (n = 27) or reinfection with the same subtype in different seasons (n = 22). The highest risk of influenza infection was in persons 5-9 years old, in whom the risk of influenza infection per season was 41.8%. Although the highest infection risk was in school-aged children, there were important heterogeneities in the age of infection by subtype and season. These heterogeneities could influence the impact of school closure and childhood vaccination on influenza transmission in tropical areas, such as Vietnam. © The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.2012This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. © The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Hide abstract

Cuong HQ, Hien NT, Duong TN, Phong TV, Cam NN, Farrar J, Nam VS, Thai KT, Horby P. 2011. Quantifying the emergence of dengue in Hanoi, Vietnam: 1998-2009. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 5 (9), pp. e1322. Read abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: An estimated 2.4 billion people live in areas at risk of dengue transmission, therefore the factors determining the establishment of endemic dengue in areas where transmission suitability is marginal is of considerable importance. Hanoi, Vietnam is such an area, and following a large dengue outbreak in 2009, we set out to determine if dengue is emerging in Hanoi. METHODS AND PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We undertook a temporal and spatial analysis of 25,983 dengue cases notified in Hanoi between 1998 and 2009. Age standardized incidence rates, standardized age of infection, and Standardized Morbidity Ratios (SMR) were calculated. A quasi-Poisson regression model was used to determine if dengue incidence was increasing over time. Wavelet analysis was used to explore the periodicity of dengue transmission and the association with climate variables. After excluding the two major outbreak years of 1998 and 2009 and correcting for changes in population age structure, we identified a significant annual increase in the incidence of dengue cases over the period 1999-2008 (incidence rate ratio  =  1.38, 95% confidence interval  =  1.20-1.58, p value  =  0.002). The age of notified dengue cases in Hanoi is high, with a median age of 23 years (mean 26.3 years). After adjusting for changes in population age structure, there was no statistically significant change in the median or mean age of dengue cases over the period studied. Districts in the central, highly urban, area of Hanoi have the highest incidence of dengue (SMR>3). CONCLUSIONS: Hanoi is a low dengue transmission setting where dengue incidence has been increasing year on year since 1999. This trend needs to be confirmed with serological surveys, followed by studies to determine the underlying drivers of this emergence. Such studies can provide insights into the biological, demographic, and environmental changes associated with vulnerability to the establishment of endemic dengue. Hide abstract

Horby P, Sudoyo H, Viprakasit V, Fox A, Thai PQ, Yu H, Davila S, Hibberd M et al. 2010. What is the evidence of a role for host genetics in susceptibility to influenza A/H5N1? Epidemiol Infect, 138 (11), pp. 1550-1558. Read abstract | Read more

The apparent family clustering of avian influenza A/H5N1 has led several groups to postulate the existence of a host genetic influence on susceptibility to A/H5N1, yet the role of host factors on the risk of A/H5N1 disease has received remarkably little attention compared to the efforts focused on viral factors. We examined the epidemiological patterns of human A/H5N1 cases, their possible explanations, and the plausibility of a host genetic effect on susceptibility to A/H5N1 infection. The preponderance of familial clustering of cases and the relative lack of non-familial clusters, the occurrence of related cases separated by time and place, and the paucity of cases in some highly exposed groups such as poultry cullers, are consistent with a host genetic effect. Animal models support the biological plausibility of genetic susceptibility to A/H5N1. Although the evidence is circumstantial, host genetic factors are a parsimonious explanation for the unusual epidemiology of human A/H5N1 cases and warrant further investigation. Hide abstract

Le QM, Wertheim HF, Tran ND, van Doorn HR, Nguyen TH, Horby P, Vietnam H1N1 Investigation Team. 2010. A community cluster of oseltamivir-resistant cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza. N Engl J Med, 362 (1), pp. 86-87. | Read more

Liem NT, Tung CV, Hien ND, Hien TT, Chau NQ, Long HT, Hien NT, Mai LEQ et al. 2009. Clinical features of human influenza A (H5N1) infection in Vietnam: 2004-2006. Clin Infect Dis, 48 (12), pp. 1639-1646. Read abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The first cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) in humans in Vietnam were detected in early 2004, and Vietnam has reported the second highest number of cases globally. METHODS: We obtained retrospective clinical data through review of medical records for laboratory confirmed cases of influenza A (H5N1) infection diagnosed in Vietnam from January 2004 through December 2006. Standard data was abstracted regarding clinical and laboratory features, treatment, and outcome. RESULTS: Data were obtained for 67 (72%) of 93 cases diagnosed in Vietnam over the study period. Patients presented to the hospital after a median duration of illness of 6 days with fever (75%), cough (89%), and dyspnea (81%). Diarrhea and mucosal bleeding at presentation were more common in fatal than in nonfatal cases. Common findings were bilateral pulmonary infiltrates on chest radiograph (72%), lymphopenia (73%), and increased serum transaminase levels (aspartate aminotransferase, 69%; alanine aminotransferase, 61%). Twenty-six patients died (case fatality rate, 39%; 95% confidence interval, 27%-51%) and the most reliable predictor of a fatal outcome was the presence of both neutropenia and raised alanine aminotransferase level at admission, which correctly predicted 91% of deaths and 82% of survivals. The risk of death was higher among persons aged < or =16 years, compared with older persons (P < .001), and the risk of death was higher among patients who did not receive oseltamivir treatment (P = .048). The benefit of oseltamivir treatment remained after controlling for potential confounding by 1 measure of severity (odds ratio, 0.15; 95% confidence interval, 0.026-0.893; P = .034). CONCLUSION: In cases of infection with Influenza A (H5N1), the presence of both neutropenia and raised serum transaminase levels predicts a poor outcome. Oseltamivir treatment shows benefit, but treatment with corticosteroids is associated with an increased risk of death. Hide abstract

Wertheim HF, Nguyen HN, Taylor W, Lien TT, Ngo HT, Nguyen TQ, Nguyen BN, Nguyen HH et al. 2009. Streptococcus suis, an important cause of adult bacterial meningitis in northern Vietnam. PLoS One, 4 (6), pp. e5973. Read abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Streptococcus suis can cause severe systemic infection in adults exposed to infected pigs or after consumption of undercooked pig products. S. suis is often misdiagnosed, due to lack of awareness and improper testing. Here we report the first fifty cases diagnosed with S. suis infection in northern Viet Nam. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In 2007, diagnostics for S. suis were set up at a national hospital in Hanoi. That year there were 43 S. suis positive cerebrospinal fluid samples, of which S. suis could be cultured in 32 cases and 11 cases were only positive by PCR. Seven patients were blood culture positive for S. suis but CSF culture and PCR negative; making a total of 50 patients with laboratory confirmed S. suis infection in 2007. The number of S. suis cases peaked during the warmer months. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: S. suis was commonly diagnosed as a cause of bacterial meningitis in adults in northern Viet Nam. In countries where there is intense and widespread exposure of humans to pigs, S. suis can be an important human pathogen. Hide abstract

Boni MF, Manh BH, Thai PQ, Farrar J, Hien TT, Hien NT, Van Kinh N, Horby P. 2009. Modelling the progression of pandemic influenza A (H1N1) in Vietnam and the opportunities for reassortment with other influenza viruses. BMC Med, 7 (1), pp. 43. Read abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: A novel variant of influenza A (H1N1) is causing a pandemic and, although the illness is usually mild, there are concerns that its virulence could change through reassortment with other influenza viruses. This is of greater concern in parts of Southeast Asia, where the population density is high, influenza is less seasonal, human-animal contact is common and avian influenza is still endemic. METHODS: We developed an age- and spatially-structured mathematical model in order to estimate the potential impact of pandemic H1N1 in Vietnam and the opportunities for reassortment with animal influenza viruses. The model tracks human infection among domestic animal owners and non-owners and also estimates the numbers of animals may be exposed to infected humans. RESULTS: In the absence of effective interventions, the model predicts that the introduction of pandemic H1N1 will result in an epidemic that spreads to half of Vietnam's provinces within 57 days (interquartile range (IQR): 45-86.5) and peaks 81 days after introduction (IQR: 62.5-121 days). For the current published range of the 2009 H1N1 influenza's basic reproductive number (1.2-3.1), we estimate a median of 410,000 cases among swine owners (IQR: 220,000-670,000) with 460,000 exposed swine (IQR: 260,000-740,000), 350,000 cases among chicken owners (IQR: 170,000-630,000) with 3.7 million exposed chickens (IQR: 1.9 M-6.4 M), and 51,000 cases among duck owners (IQR: 24,000 - 96,000), with 1.2 million exposed ducks (IQR: 0.6 M-2.1 M). The median number of overall human infections in Vietnam for this range of the basic reproductive number is 6.4 million (IQR: 4.4 M-8.0 M). CONCLUSION: It is likely that, in the absence of effective interventions, the introduction of a novel H1N1 into a densely populated country such as Vietnam will result in a widespread epidemic. A large epidemic in a country with intense human-animal interaction and continued co-circulation of other seasonal and avian viruses would provide substantial opportunities for H1N1 to acquire new genes. Hide abstract

Nguyen TH, Farrar J, Horby P. 2008. Person-to-person transmission of influenza A (H5N1). Lancet, 371 (9622), pp. 1392-1394. | Read more

Le MT, Wertheim HF, Nguyen HD, Taylor W, Hoang PV, Vuong CD, Nguyen HL, Nguyen HH et al. 2008. Influenza A H5N1 clade 2.3.4 virus with a different antiviral susceptibility profile replaced clade 1 virus in humans in northern Vietnam. PLoS One, 3 (10), pp. e3339. Read abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Prior to 2007, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 viruses isolated from poultry and humans in Vietnam were consistently reported to be clade 1 viruses, susceptible to oseltamivir but resistant to amantadine. Here we describe the re-emergence of human HPAI H5N1 virus infections in Vietnam in 2007 and the characteristics of the isolated viruses. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Respiratory specimens from patients suspected to be infected with avian influenza in 2007 were screened by influenza and H5 subtype specific polymerase chain reaction. Isolated H5N1 strains were further characterized by genome sequencing and drug susceptibility testing. Eleven poultry outbreak isolates from 2007 were included in the sequence analysis. Eight patients, all of them from northern Vietnam, were diagnosed with H5N1 in 2007 and five of them died. Phylogenetic analysis of H5N1 viruses isolated from humans and poultry in 2007 showed that clade 2.3.4 H5N1 viruses replaced clade 1 viruses in northern Vietnam. Four human H5N1 strains had eight-fold reduced in-vitro susceptibility to oseltamivir as compared to clade 1 viruses. In two poultry isolates the I117V mutation was found in the neuraminidase gene, which is associated with reduced susceptibility to oseltamivir. No mutations in the M2 gene conferring amantadine resistance were found. CONCLUSION: In 2007, H5N1 clade 2.3.4 viruses replaced clade 1 viruses in northern Vietnam and were susceptible to amantadine but showed reduced susceptibility to oseltamivir. Combination antiviral therapy with oseltamivir and amantadine for human cases in Vietnam is recommended. Hide abstract

World Health Organization Writing Group, Bell D, Nicoll A, Fukuda K, Horby P, Monto A, Hayden F, Wylks C, Sanders L, Van Tam J. 2006. Non-pharmaceutical interventions for pandemic influenza, international measures. Emerg Infect Dis, 12 (1), pp. 81-87. Read abstract | Read more

Since global availability of vaccine and antiviral agents against influenza caused by novel human subtypes is insufficient, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends non-pharmaceutical public health interventions to contain infection, delay spread, and reduce the impact of pandemic disease. Virus transmission characteristics will not be completely known in advance, but difficulties in influenza control typically include peak infectivity early in illness, a short interval between cases, and to a lesser extent, transmission from persons with incubating or asymptomatic infection. Screening and quarantining entering travelers at international borders did not substantially delay virus introduction in past pandemics, except in some island countries, and will likely be even less effective in the modern era. Instead, WHO recommends providing information to international travelers and possibly screening travelers departing countries with transmissible human infection. The principal focus of interventions against pandemic influenza spread should be at national and community levels rather than international borders. Hide abstract

World Health Organization Writing Group, Bell D, Nicoll A, Fukuda K, Horby P, Monto A, Hayden F, Wylks C, Sanders L, van Tam J. 2006. Non-pharmaceutical interventions for pandemic influenza, national and community measures. Emerg Infect Dis, 12 (1), pp. 88-94. Read abstract | Read more

The World Health Organization's recommended pandemic influenza interventions, based on limited data, vary by transmission pattern, pandemic phase, and illness severity and extent. In the pandemic alert period, recommendations include isolation of patients and quarantine of contacts, accompanied by antiviral therapy. During the pandemic period, the focus shifts to delaying spread and reducing effects through population-based measures. Ill persons should remain home when they first become symptomatic, but forced isolation and quarantine are ineffective and impractical. If the pandemic is severe, social distancing measures such as school closures should be considered. Nonessential domestic travel to affected areas should be deferred. Hand and respiratory hygiene should be routine; mask use should be based on setting and risk, and contaminated household surfaces should be disinfected. Additional research and field assessments during pandemics are essential to update recommendations. Legal authority and procedures for implementing interventions should be understood in advance and should respect cultural differences and human rights. Hide abstract

Dinh PN, Long HT, Tien NT, Hien NT, Mai LETQ, Phong LEH, Tuan LEV, Van Tan H et al. 2006. Risk factors for human infection with avian influenza A H5N1, Vietnam, 2004. Emerg Infect Dis, 12 (12), pp. 1841-1847. Read abstract | Read more

To evaluate risk factors for human infection with influenza A subtype H5N1, we performed a matched case-control study in Vietnam. We enrolled 28 case-patients who had laboratory-confirmed H5N1 infection during 2004 and 106 age-, sex-, and location-matched control-respondents. Data were analyzed by matched-pair analysis and multivariate conditional logistic regression. Factors that were independently associated with H5N1 infection were preparing sick or dead poultry for consumption < or =7 days before illness onset (matched odds ratio [OR] 8.99, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.98-81.99, p = 0.05), having sick or dead poultry in the household < or =7 days before illness onset (matched OR 4.94, 95% CI 1.21-20.20, p = 0.03), and lack of an indoor water source (matched OR 6.46, 95% CI 1.20-34.81, p = 0.03). Factors not significantly associated with infection were raising healthy poultry, preparing healthy poultry for consumption, and exposure to persons with an acute respiratory illness. Hide abstract

Tran TH, Nguyen TL, Nguyen TD, Luong TS, Pham PM, Nguyen VV, Pham TS, Vo CD et al. 2004. Avian influenza A (H5N1) in 10 patients in Vietnam. N Engl J Med, 350 (12), pp. 1179-1188. Read abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Recent outbreaks of avian influenza A (H5N1) in poultry throughout Asia have had major economic and health repercussions. Human infections with this virus were identified in Vietnam in January 2004. METHODS: We report the clinical features and preliminary epidemiologic findings among 10 patients with confirmed cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) who presented to hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam, in December 2003 and January 2004. RESULTS: In all 10 cases, the diagnosis of influenza A (H5N1) was confirmed by means of viral culture or reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction with primers specific for H5 and N1. None of the 10 patients (mean age, 13.7 years) had preexisting medical conditions. Nine of them had a clear history of direct contact with poultry (median time before onset of illness, three days). All patients presented with fever (temperature, 38.5 to 40.0 degrees C), respiratory symptoms, and clinically significant lymphopenia (median lymphocyte count, 700 per cubic millimeter). The median platelet count was 75,500 per cubic millimeter. Seven patients had diarrhea. In all patients, there were marked abnormalities on chest radiography. There was no definitive evidence of human-to-human transmission. Eight patients died, one patient has recovered, and one is recovering. CONCLUSIONS: Influenza A (H5N1) infection, characterized by fever, respiratory symptoms, and lymphopenia, carries a high risk of death. Although in all 10 cases the infection appears to have been acquired directly from infected poultry, the potential exists for genetic reassortment with human influenzaviruses and the evolution of human-to-human transmission. Containment of influenza A (H5N1) in poultry throughout Asia is therefore urgently required. Hide abstract