Swine flu not just a threat to young: study

Tue Nov 3, 2009 5:22pm EST
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Swine flu can cause severe disease in people of all ages and appears to pose a special threat to those who are obese, according to an analysis of H1N1 cases in California released on Tuesday.

Public health researchers analyzed the state's first 1,088 hospitalized and fatal cases of H1N1 infection between April 23 and August 1.

Like other studies, they found the average patient who was hospitalized with H1N1 flu was younger than what is commonly seen with seasonal flu, but they also found severe disease at both ends of the age spectrum.

"What our study shows was that once you were hospitalized, if you were elderly you have a higher risk of dying," Dr. Janice Louie of the California Department of Public Health in Richmond, whose study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the study matches the CDC's own observations -- that H1N1 affects all age groups, including people over 65.

"If they get it, it can be every bit as severe as seasonal flu, consistent with other data," Frieden told a news briefing.

"It does emphasize that providers should think of H1N1 influenza in all age groups," he said.

Frieden said the new findings do not change the CDC's recommendations for vaccination, which focus on younger people, those with underlying conditions such as asthma and pregnant women.   Continued...

<p>A child peers in the window as she waits in line to receive the H1N1 vaccine in Haltom City, Texas October 30, 2009. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi</p>