The Neurological Manifestations of H1N1 Influenza Infection; Diagnostic Challenges and Recommendations

Document Type: Original Article(s)

Authors

1 Departments of Neurology, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran; Jefferson Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, Thomas Jefferson University, USA

2 Departments of Neurology, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran

3 Health Policy Research Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran

4 H1N1 Surveillance Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran

Abstract

Background: World Health Organization declared pandemic phase of human infection with novel influenza A (H1N1) in April 2009. There are very few reports about the neurological complications of H1N1 virus infection in the literature. Occasionally, these complications are severe and even fatal in some individuals. The aims of this study were to report neurological complaints and/or complications associated with H1N1 virus infection.
Methods: The medical files of all patients with H1N1 influenza infection admitted to a specified hospital in the city of Shiraz, Iran from October through November 2009 were re-viewed. More information about the patients were obtained by phone calls to the patients or their care givers. All patients had confirmed H1N1 virus infection with real-time PCR assay.
Results: Fifty-five patients with H1N1 infection were studied. Twenty-three patients had neurological signs and/or symptoms. Mild neurological complaints may be reported in up to 42% of patients infected by H1N1 virus. Severe neurological complications occurred in 9% of the patients. The most common neurological manifestations were headache, numbness and paresthesia, drowsiness and coma. One patient had a Guillain-Barre syndrome-like illness, and died in a few days. Another patient had focal status epilepticus and encephalopathy.
Conclusions: The H1N1 infection seems to have been quite mild with a self-limited course in much of the world, yet there appears to be a subset, which is severely affected. We recommend performing diagnostic tests for H1N1influenza virus in all patients with respiratory illness and neurological signs/symptoms. We also recommend initiating treatment with appropriate antiviral drugs as soon as possible in those with any significant neurological presentation accompanied with respiratory illness and flu-like symptoms.