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November 6, 1991

Some (Not All) Influenza Watchers Suggest 'Bad Season' Lies Ahead

JAMA. 1991;266(17):2329. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470170013002

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WHILE SOME experts are warning that the coming influenza season may be as lethal as the one that caused an estimated 50 000 flu-related deaths in the United States 2 years ago, epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga, are being cautious in their predictions (MMWR. 1991;40:709-712).

Still, several factors suggest that the coming season may be a repeat of the 1989-1990 influenza epidemic—the worst in 20 years, says W. Paul Glezen, MD, chief epidemiologist at the Influenza Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Tex.

The 1989-1990 season was predominated by an influenza A strain (H3N2) that is associated with high rates of mortality among the elderly and other persons at high risk of pneumonia and other pulmonary complications. By contrast, the 1990-1991 season was dominated by a milder influenza B strain.

However, another influenza A(H3N2) strain started to appear at the end of that