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Keywords:

  • Avian influenza;
  • pandemic influenza;
  • transplantation

Influenza viruses are important infections in transplant recipients. They may lead to complications including viral pneumonia, secondary bacterial infections and graft dysfunction. There has been a recent widespread outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza among domestic poultry and wild birds along with a number of human cases with severe disease and high mortality. Genetic changes in the H5N1 virus may lead to efficient human-to-human transmission, heralding the onset of the next influenza pandemic. Discussed are the implications that such a pandemic may have on transplant patients. Logical inferences can be made from data on influenza in transplant patients and from experience with other respiratory virus outbreaks. In the event of a pandemic, it is likely that transplant patients will have more severe disease and higher mortality as compared to the general population. Vaccination and antiviral strategies may be less effective in this population. Implications for transplant programs in general are also discussed.