Introduction: Following the initial outbreak of A/H1N1pdm09, periodic resurgences of the virus, with variable morbidity and mortality, have been reported from various parts of India including the temperate Kashmir region of northern India. An outbreak of A/H1N1 with high morbidity and mortality was reported in early 2015 across India with a high morbidity and mortality. We studied patients during the outbreak in Kashmir.
Methods: Patients (n=1780, age 1 month to 90 years, median 35 years) presenting with acute respiratory illness to a tertiary care hospital in Srinagar, Kashmir from October 2014 to April 2015 were recruited. After clinical data recording, combined throat and nasal swabs were collected in viral transport medium and tested by real-time RT-PCR for influenza viruses. All influenza A positive samples were further subtyped using primers and probes for A/H1N1pdm09 and A/H3 whereas influenza B samples were further subtyped into B/Yamagata and B/Victoria lineages. Virus isolation, hemagglutination inhibition testing, sequencing and phylogenetic analysis was carried out using standard procedures. Testing for H275Y mutation was done to determine sensitivity to oseltamivir. All patients received symptomatic therapy and influenza positive patients were administered oseltamivir.
Results: Of the 1780 patients, 540 (30%) required hospitalization and 533 tested positive for influenza [influenza A=517(A/H1N1pdm09=437, A/H3N2=78 with co-infection of both in 2 cases); influenza B=16 (B/Yamgata=15)]. About 14% (n=254) had been vaccinated against influenza, having received the NH 2014-15 vaccine, 27 (11.3%) of these testing positive for influenza. Sixteen patients, including 4 pregnant females, died due to multi-organ failure. HA sequencing depicted that 2015 isolates belonged to Clade 6B.1. No H275Y mutation was reported from A/H1N1 positives.
Conclusion: Resurgent outbreak of A/H1N1pdm09, with emergence of clade 6B.1, in 2014-15 resulted in high rate of hospitalizations, morbidity and mortality. Periodic resurgences and appearance of mutants emphasize continued surveillance so as to identify newer mutations with potential for outbreaks and severe outcomes.