Public hospital-based laboratory experience during an outbreak of pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus infections

J Clin Microbiol. 2010 Apr;48(4):1189-94. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01657-09. Epub 2010 Feb 10.


The experience of a public hospital virology laboratory during a springtime 2009 outbreak of a novel influenza A (H1N1) virus in New York State is described. Influenza virus was isolated from 145 of 613 respiratory swab specimens. Symptoms of fever (temperature, 102.7 +/- 0.32 degrees F), cough, upper respiratory infection, myalgia, and headache were reported. Atypical symptoms of nausea/vomiting and diarrhea were also observed. Illness occurred mainly in patients <or=21 years of age (85/145 patients). Only two patients were >or=65 years old. Compared to the results of traditional culture methods, the sensitivities of a rapid chromatographic influenza A and B virus immunoassay and rapid shell vial culture were 70.3% and 98.6%, respectively. A sensitivity of 80% was obtained by testing 50 specimens by a direct fluorescent-antibody (DFA) assay. The observation of adequate numbers of cells on the DFA assay slides suggests that the low sensitivity of the chromatographic immunoassay may result from its intrinsic nature and not from improper specimen collection. A reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) assay of 45 specimens performed off-site yielded 21 novel (H1N1) viruses and 2 seasonal (H3N2) influenza viruses. The mean time interval of 5.69 +/- 0.37 days from specimen collection to the availability of RT-PCR results limited the value of this assay for patient care. In laboratories lacking on-site molecular capabilities, shell vial techniques can rapidly (about 1 day) confirm negative results and/or identify false-negative chromatographic immunoassay results. Laboratories lacking culture capabilities may also use the DFA assay to confirm or replace the results obtained by these immunoassays. Increasing testing demands caused shortages in commodities and personnel. Alternative testing strategies and planning are necessary in order to optimize virus detection and ensure appropriate resource allocation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Public
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / isolation & purification*
  • Influenza, Human / diagnosis*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • Influenza, Human / pathology
  • Influenza, Human / virology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Virology / methods
  • Virus Cultivation / methods
  • Young Adult