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New York Autopsies Show 2009 H1N1 Influenza Virus Damages Entire Airway

In fatal cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza, the virus can damage cells throughout the respiratory airway, much like the viruses that caused the 1918 and 1957 influenza pandemics, report researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner.

The scientists reviewed autopsy reports, hospital records and other clinical data from 34 people who died of 2009 H1N1 influenza infection between May 15 and July 9, 2009. All but two of the deaths occurred in New York City. A microscopic examination of tissues throughout the airways revealed that the virus caused damage primarily to the upper airway -- the trachea and bronchial tubes -- but tissue damage in the lower airway, including deep in the lungs, was present as well. Evidence of secondary bacterial infection was seen in more than half of the victims.

The team was led by James R. Gill, M.D., of the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner and New York University School of Medicine, and Jeffery K. Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at NIH. The findings are reported in the Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, now available online and scheduled to appear in the February 2010 print issue.
 
 

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