Introduction: Since the emergence of the pandemic influenza A/H1N1/2009 virus in April 2009, diagnostic testing in many countries has revealed the rapid displacement and then replacement of circulating seasonal influenza viruses by this novel virus.Materials and Methods: In-house seasonal and pandemic influenza-specific polymerase chain reaction assays were introduced and/or developed at the Molecular Diagnosis Centre (MDC) at the National University Hospital (NUH), Singapore. These assays have been used to test all samples received from in-patients, out-patients, staff and visitors for suspected pandemic influenza A/H1N1/2009 infection. Results: Prior to the arrival of the pandemic A/H1N1/2009 virus in Singapore at the end of May 2009, seasonal influenza A/H3N2 predominated in this population, with very little seasonal influenza A/H1N1 and B viruses detected. Within about 1 month of its arrival in Singapore (mainly during June to July 2009), this pandemic virus rapidly displaced seasonal influenza A/H3N2 to become the predominant strain in the Singaporean population served by MDC/NUH. Conclusion: Real-time molecular techniques have allowed the prompt detection of different influenza subtypes during this current pandemic, which has revealed the displacement/replacement of previously circulating seasonal subtypes with A/H1N1/2009. Although some of this may be explained by immunological cross-reactivity between influenza subtypes, more studies are required.
The global preparedness that followed the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreaks of 2003 and the re-emergence of a potentially pandemic avian influenza A/ H5N1, was still found to be inadequate to deal with the rapid spread of pandemic influenza A/H1N1/2009 as it emerged from the Americas in March/April 2009.
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