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November 25th, 2009
Even Healthy People Risk H1N1 Swine Flu Hospitalization without Vaccine

Although it is common for people hospitalized from H1N1 swine flu to have had chronic medical conditions, many healthy people are also seriously affected by the disease, said a U.S. health official recently.

The majority of adults taken to hospital for the virus have had health problems like asthma, immune system disorders, chronic lung diseases, and heart disease says the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization, Dr. Anne Schuchat.

However, “this virus can be serious even in people with no underlying conditions” she warned.

Among the patients hospitalized with H1N1 swine flu, 45% of adults did not have any previous health conditions and 6% were pregnant. (Read more about pregnant women preventing H1N1 swine flu here) 5.8% of the children in hospital had sickle anemia or a similar blood problem, said Schuchat. The most frequent pre-existing health problems for children were asthma, chronic lung disease, and neuromuscular diseases.

Schuchat’s findings came from 1,400 adults and 500 children hospitalized in medical centers enrolled in CDC’s Emerging Infections Program Network.

Since the H1N1 swine flu epidemic began, 12,384 American people have been taken to hospital, and 1,544 have died. 81 children have died from the disease so far.
However, it is helpful to note that children deaths from the yearly seasonal flu range from 46 to 88 annually. Still, the number of pediatric deaths from the H1N1 virus is higher than usual.

9.8 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine are now available in the United States in injectable form. The drugs availability will continue to grow and by the end of October and early November, abundant supplies should be easily available.

The first vaccine was in the form of a nasal spray called FluMist. However, it is only recommended for healthy people aged 2 to 49 and not for pregnant women.
“Pregnancy and underlying conditions are ones that we highlight as recommended to receive the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available in communities,” says Schuchat.
Pregnant women are at such a great risk because of two factors, Schuchat said: “In pregnancy, there’s a change in the immune system which makes it easier for the woman to hold the fetus and not have an immune reaction to the baby. And so risk of infections can be greater.”

The second issue “is probably more mechanical, that as the woman gets larger with the baby growing, there can be pressing on the airways and really a restrictive lung disease. So it’s harder to take a deep breath and it’s harder to fight off a lung infection especially in the later stages of pregnancy,” Shuchat said.

Large amounts of the vaccine will be available in late October and November, making the shortages in some parts of the country temporary.

There is plenty of time to still get the seasonal flu shot or stock up on Canadian prescription drugs to prevent the flu, since it has not yet begun.

For more information about the H1N1 swine flu, visit: United States Center for Disease Control
For more information about the H1N1 vaccine, visit: http://Flu.gov


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