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Assessment of the severity of disease due to the 2009 pandemic influenza A(H1N1) in Australian states and territories has been hampered by the absence of denominator data on population exposure. We compared antibody reactivity to the pandemic virus using haemagglutination inhibition assays performed on plasma specimens taken from healthy adult blood donors (older than 16 years) before and after the influenza pandemic that occurred during the southern hemisphere winter. Pre-influenza season samples (April - May 2009, n=496) were taken from donation collection centres in North Queensland (in Cairns and Townsville); post-outbreak specimens (October - November 2009, n=779) were from donors at seven centres in five states. Using a threshold antibody titre of 40 as a marker of recent infection, we observed an increase in the influenza-seropositive proportion of donors from 12% to 22%, not dissimilar to recent reports of influenza A(H1N1)-specific immunity in adults from the United Kingdom. No significant differences in seroprevalence were observed between Australian states, although the ability to detect minor variations was limited by the sample size. On the basis of these figures and national reporting data, we estimate that approximately 0.23% of all individuals in Australia exposed to the pandemic virus required hospitalisation and 0.01% died. The low seroprevalence reported here suggests that some degree of prior immunity to the virus, perhaps mediated by broadly reactive T-cell responses to conserved influenza viral antigens, limited transmission among adults and thus constrained the pandemic in Australia. .


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