Robert Roos News Editor Oct 8, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – Two reports published by the New England Journal of Medicine today filled in more details about severe cases of H1N1 influenza, generally confirming previous findings that most of them occur in non-elderly people who have chronic health conditions but that previously healthy people are also affected. One report deals with 272 patients who were hospitalized with H1N1 in the spring wave in the United States. The researchers, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), report that 73% had an underlying medical problem, 25% required intensive care, and 7% died. Close to half of the patients were under the age of 18; only 5% were 65 or older. A second report covers all 722 patients who were treated in intensive care units (ICUs) for H1N1 in Australia and New Zealand from June through August. It says that ICU admissions for influenza A in that period were 15 times the number of admissions for viral pneumonia in recent years. About 65% of the patients needed mechanical ventilation, and about 14% of them did not survive. Obesity showed up as a possible contributing factor for severe illness in both studies, occurring in 29% of the Australian and New Zealand cases and in 45% of US cases for which data were available. In line with previous reports, pregnant women were disproportionately represented in both groups.

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