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Influenza activity in Europe during the 2001-02 influenza season was mild to moderate. Compared to historical data, the intensity was low in six countries, medium in eleven and high in one country (Spain). The dominant virus circulating in Europe was influenza A(H3N2). Two novel influenza virus strains were isolated during the 2001-02 season: influenza A(H1N2) viruses (mainly isolated in the United Kingdom and Ireland, but also in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Romania), and influenza B viruses belonging to the B/Victoria/2/87 lineage (mainly isolated in Germany, but also sporadically in France, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway). With the exception of H1N2 virus detections in England, and Ireland and the influenza B viruses belonging to the B/Victoria/2/87 lineage in Germany, these two viruses did not circulate widely in Europe and did not play an important role in influenza activity during the 2001-02 season. An influenza B virus belonging to the B/Victoria/2/87 lineage will be included in the 2002-03 influenza vaccine. The new subtype influenza A(H1N2) is covered by the 2002-03 vaccine, as the haemagglutinin and neuraminidase components of the H1N2 viruses are antigenically similar to the vaccine components (H1N1 and H3N2).


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