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Concept: Swine influenza


Zoonoses originating from wildlife represent a significant threat to global health, security and economic growth, and combatting their emergence is a public health priority. However, our understanding of the mechanisms underlying their emergence remains rudimentary. Here we update a global database of emerging infectious disease (EID) events, create a novel measure of reporting effort, and fit boosted regression tree models to analyze the demographic, environmental and biological correlates of their occurrence. After accounting for reporting effort, we show that zoonotic EID risk is elevated in forested tropical regions experiencing land-use changes and where wildlife biodiversity (mammal species richness) is high. We present a new global hotspot map of spatial variation in our zoonotic EID risk index, and partial dependence plots illustrating relationships between events and predictors. Our results may help to improve surveillance and long-term EID monitoring programs, and design field experiments to test underlying mechanisms of zoonotic disease emergence.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Lyme disease, Swine influenza, Pandemic, Zoonosis


Assessing the mortality impact of the 2009 influenza A H1N1 virus (H1N1pdm09) is essential for optimizing public health responses to future pandemics. The World Health Organization reported 18,631 laboratory-confirmed pandemic deaths, but the total pandemic mortality burden was substantially higher. We estimated the 2009 pandemic mortality burden through statistical modeling of mortality data from multiple countries.

Concepts: Influenza, Swine influenza, Pandemic, Influenza vaccine, World Health Organization, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, Pandemic H1N1/09 virus


Concerns have been raised over competing interests (CoI) among academics during the 2009 to 2010 A/H1N1 pandemic. Media reporting can influence public anxiety and demand for pharmaceutical products. We assessed CoI of academics providing media commentary during the early stages of the pandemic.

Concepts: Influenza, Swine influenza, Pandemic, Influenza vaccine, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, Pandemic H1N1/09 virus, H1N1


Influenza A virus (IAV) is a major public health concern, being responsible for the death of approximately half a million people each year. Zoonotic transmissions of the virus from swine and avian origin have occurred in the past, and can potentially lead to the emgergence of new IAV stains in future pandemics. Pulmonary macrophages have been implicated in disease severity in the lower airway, and understanding the host response of macrophages infected with avian influenza viruses should provide new therapeutic strategies.

Concepts: Microbiology, Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza pandemic, Transmission and infection of H5N1, Swine influenza, Pandemic, Influenza vaccine


Asia is considered an important source of influenza A virus (IAV) pandemics, owing to large, diverse viral reservoirs in poultry and swine. However, the zoonotic origins of the 2009 A/H1N1 influenza pandemic virus (pdmH1N1) remain unclear, due to conflicting evidence from swine and humans. There is strong evidence that the first human outbreak of pdmH1N1 occurred in Mexico in early 2009. However, no related swine viruses have been detected in Mexico or any part of the Americas, and to date the most closely related ancestor viruses were identified in Asian swine. Here, we use 58 new whole-genome sequences from IAVs collected in Mexican swine to establish that the swine virus responsible for the 2009 pandemic evolved in central Mexico. This finding highlights how the 2009 pandemic arose from a region not considered a pandemic risk, owing to an expansion of IAV diversity in swine resulting from long-distance live swine trade.

Concepts: Influenza, Influenza pandemic, Swine influenza, Pandemic, Influenza vaccine, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, Pandemic H1N1/09 virus


Interspecies transmission of influenza A is an important factor in the evolution and ecology of influenza viruses. Marine mammals are in contact with a number of influenza reservoirs, including aquatic birds and humans, and this may facilitate transmission among avian and mammalian hosts. Virus isolation, whole genome sequencing, and hemagluttination inhibition assay confirmed that exposure to pandemic H1N1 influenza virus occurred among free-ranging Northern Elephant Seals (Mirounga angustirostris) in 2010. Nasal swabs were collected from 42 adult female seals in April 2010, just after the animals had returned to the central California coast from their short post-breeding migration in the northeast Pacific. Swabs from two seals tested positive by RT-PCR for the matrix gene, and virus was isolated from each by inoculation into embryonic chicken eggs. Whole genome sequencing revealed greater than 99% homology with A/California/04/2009 (H1N1) that emerged in humans from swine in 2009. Analysis of more than 300 serum samples showed that samples collected early in 2010 (n = 100) were negative and by April animals began to test positive for antibodies against the pH1N1 virus (HI titer of ≥1∶40), supporting the molecular findings. In vitro characterizations studies revealed that viral replication was indistinguishable from that of reference strains of pH1N1 in canine kidney cells, but replication was inefficient in human epithelial respiratory cells, indicating these isolates may be elephant seal adapted viruses. Thus findings confirmed that exposure to pandemic H1N1 that was circulating in people in 2009 occurred among free-ranging Northern Elephant Seals in 2010 off the central California coast. This is the first report of pH1N1 (A/Elephant seal/California/1/2010) in any marine mammal and provides evidence for cross species transmission of influenza viruses in free-ranging wildlife and movement of influenza viruses between humans and wildlife.

Concepts: DNA, Influenza, Swine influenza, Pandemic, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, Northern Elephant Seal, Elephant seal


Swine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory viral infection in pigs that is responsible for significant financial losses to pig farmers annually. Current measures to protect herds from infection include: inactivated whole-virus vaccines, subunit vaccines, and alpha replicon-based vaccines. As is true for influenza vaccines for humans, these strategies do not provide broad protection against the diverse strains of influenza A virus (IAV) currently circulating in U.S. swine. Improved approaches to developing swine influenza vaccines are needed. Here, we used immunoinformatics tools to identify class I and II T cell epitopes highly conserved in seven representative strains of IAV in U.S. swine and predicted to bind to Swine Leukocyte Antigen (SLA) alleles prevalent in commercial swine. Epitope-specific interferon-gamma (IFNγ) recall responses to pooled peptides and whole virus were detected in pigs immunized with multi-epitope plasmid DNA vaccines encoding strings of class I and II putative epitopes. In a retrospective analysis of the IFNγ responses to individual peptides compared to predictions specific to the SLA alleles of cohort pigs, we evaluated the predictive performance of PigMatrix and demonstrated its ability to distinguish non-immunogenic from immunogenic peptides and to identify promiscuous class II epitopes. Overall, this study confirms the capacity of PigMatrix to predict immunogenic T cell epitopes and demonstrate its potential for use in the design of epitope-driven vaccines for swine. Additional studies that match the SLA haplotype of animals with the study epitopes will be required to evaluate the degree of immune protection conferred by epitope-driven DNA vaccines in pigs.

Concepts: Immune system, Gene, Vaccine, Prediction, Influenza, Swine influenza, Influenza vaccine, Pig


Zoonotic diseases represent critical threats to global health security. Effective mitigation of the impact of endemic and emerging zoonotic diseases of public health importance requires multisectoral collaboration and interdisciplinary partnerships. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created the One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization Tool to help countries identify zoonotic diseases of greatest national concern using input from representatives of human health, agriculture, environment, and wildlife sectors. We review 7 One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization Tool workshops conducted during 2014-2016, highlighting workshop outcomes, lessons learned, and shared themes from countries implementing this process. We also describe the tool’s ability to help countries focus One Health capacity-building efforts to appropriately prevent, detect, and respond to zoonotic disease threats.

Concepts: Medicine, Public health, Epidemiology, Diseases and disorders, Malaria, Swine influenza, Pandemic, Zoonosis


18,500 laboratory-confirmed deaths caused by the 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1 were reported worldwide for the period April, 2009, to August, 2010. This number is likely to be only a fraction of the true number of the deaths associated with 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1. We aimed to estimate the global number of deaths during the first 12 months of virus circulation in each country.

Concepts: Influenza, Swine influenza, Pandemic, Influenza vaccine, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, Pandemic H1N1/09 virus, H1N1


Theory suggests that human behavior has implications for disease spread. We examine the hypothesis that individuals engage in voluntary defensive behavior during an epidemic. We estimate the number of passengers missing previously purchased flights as a function of concern for swine flu or A/H1N1 influenza using 1.7 million detailed flight records, Google Trends, and the World Health Organization’s FluNet data. We estimate that concern over “swine flu,” as measured by Google Trends, accounted for 0.34% of missed flights during the epidemic. The Google Trends data correlates strongly with media attention, but poorly (at times negatively) with reported cases in FluNet. Passengers show no response to reported cases. Passengers skipping their purchased trips forwent at least $50 M in travel related benefits. Responding to actual cases would have cut this estimate in half. Thus, people appear to respond to an epidemic by voluntarily engaging in self-protection behavior, but this behavior may not be responsive to objective measures of risk. Clearer risk communication could substantially reduce epidemic costs. People undertaking costly risk reduction behavior, for example, forgoing nonrefundable flights, suggests they may also make less costly behavior adjustments to avoid infection. Accounting for defensive behaviors may be important for forecasting epidemics, but linking behavior with epidemics likely requires consideration of risk communication.

Concepts: Psychology, Infectious disease, Influenza, Behavior, Swine influenza, Pandemic, World Health Organization, 2009 flu pandemic