, Volume 151, Issue 2, pp 241-254
Date: 30 Sep 2005

Influenza A/Fujian/411/02(H3N2)-lineage viruses in Finland: genetic diversity, epidemic activity and vaccination-induced antibody response

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Summary.

The first sporadic cases of Fujian/411/02-lineage viruses were recorded in Finland in winter 2001–2002. The first protracted but low-intensity outbreak occurred here during the first half of 2003, and the second outbreak early in autumn 2003, after detection of sporadic influenza A cases in the summer. The calculated incidence of influenza A in the Finnish army was 515/10000 during the first outbreak and 2066/10000 during the second outbreak. During the 2003–2004 epidemic season, the isolates fell into three groups for their haemagglutinin (HA1) sequences. In groups I and II, the strains were reassortants which differed for their neuraminidase (NA) sequences from the viruses of the previous spring. Group II viruses, which predominated in Finland during the 2003–2004 season, were characterized by loss of the glycosylation site at position 126 in HA1. The relevance of this loss to the epidemiology is discussed, as well as the frequent appearance of codominant amino acid mixtures at position 151 lining the catalytic cavity of the NA. Group III viruses, genetically related to Wellington/1/2004, the drift variant predominant in 2004 in the southern hemisphere, caused some localized outbreaks in Finland towards the end of the 2003–2004 epidemic. The antigenic match between the vaccine virus (Panama/2007/99) and the Fujian-lineage epidemic viruses in winter 2003–2004 was far from optimal. Nevertheless, high levels of prevaccination and postvaccination antibodies to the predomi- nant group II virus were recorded. Lower antibody levels were detected to the group III virus, which turned out to be a herald strain that reappeared in Finland during the following epidemic season.