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The extent of the H1N1 pandemic has been estimated from case counts and deaths but the proportion of exposed populations with inapparent infections has not been described in detail. We analysed haemagglutination-inhibition (HI) antibody titres of pre-vaccination sera from pandemic vaccine trials conducted in six countries on four continents to provide an indication of A/CA/07/2009(H1N1)-like influenza seroprevalence in those populations. Among 7,962 subjects, ranging in age from 12 months to over 60 years, the proportions with HI antibody titres ≥40 to the H1N1pnd virus in the period from August to October 2009 were, by country: Costa Rica 26.4%, United States (US) 22.5%, Switzerland 16.9%, Germany 12.6%, Belgium 10.1%, and Japan 5.9%. Age-specific seropositivity rates in the samples were higher in children and adolescents in Costa Rica and in the US than in Europe and in Japan. The low proportion of seropositive children in Europe and Japan suggests that little local viral transmission had occurred in those regions even as late as September and October 2009, while in the US and Costa Rica, the greater proportion of previously infected children and young adults suggested that a significant number of asymptomatic infections had occurred during the first pandemic wave. Nevertheless, in all locations, the majority of the population remained susceptible to the pandemic virus at the beginning of the influenza season in the northern hemisphere, justifying the implementation of public health interventions.


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