Severe cases of H1N1 reviewed: young, pregnant women and disadvantaged populations at risk

Reports are growing that H1N1 targets young populations. According to the latest CDC reporting, there have been 43 flu-related deaths in the U.S. among perons under age 18, since August 30. A CDC spokesperson called these “very sobering statistics” given that only about 40 or 50 children usually die during an entire flu season.

A World Health Organization (WHO) conference that convened last week in Washington DC determined that the pathology of H1N1 is “strikingly different” from seasonal flu. “Many severe cases occur in previously healthy young people.” Predisposing factors for this are unclear.

Severe viral pneumonia was cited as a frequent cause of death. Respiratory failure and refractory (irreversible) shock were the most common causes of death. In severe cases, patients usually deteriorated around 3 to 5 days after the onset of symptopms, with many progressing on respiratory failure within 24 hours.

According to WHO conference participants, the groups at greatest risk included pregnant women, children under 2 years of age, and persons with lung disease. Disadvantaged minorities and indigeneous groups are also disproportionately predisposed to severe illness; this may be linked higher incidence of other risk factors. Obesity also appears to be linked to severe H1N1 cases.

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WHO: Clinical features of severe cases of pandemic influenza
Washington Post: H1N1’s Links to Pneumonia Appear Clearer

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