H1N1 Swine Flu Deadly to the Young
88% of H1N1 Swine Flu Deaths Are People Under Age 65, Reversing Seasonal Trend
Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News
Louise Chang, MD
Oct. 20, 2009 -- H1N1 swine flu has turned flu death statistics upside down,
the CDC today confirmed.
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H1N1 Swine Flu
Learn about H1N1 swine flu:
In a normal flu season, 90% of deaths are in elderly people. Since
September, 90% of deaths have been in people under age 65 -- with almost a
quarter of the deaths in young people under age 25.
"It is almost completely reversed. Nearly 90% of our fatalities are
occurring in people under 65," CDC respiratory disease chief Anne Schuchat, MD,
said at a news conference. "This illustrates this H1N1 virus is
disproportionally affecting the young."
As might be expected from the death toll, most people hospitalized with
severe H1N1 swine flu are young. Surveillance data from 27 states show that
more than half of swine flu hospitalizations -- 53% -- are in people under age
25. Only 7% of people hospitalized with swine flu are elderly.
While the majority of severe H1N1 swine flu cases are in people with
conditions that put them at risk of flu complications, not all these conditions
are severe. Well-treated asthma, for example, is common. And pregnancy isn't an
illnesses at all. Yet the risk is there.
"Completely healthy pregnant women are coming down with horrible, horrible
illnesses -- and, tragically more deaths," Schuchat said. "And some conditions
like asthma which is well controlled. So even if you have diabetes that's well
controlled, if you have asthma that's well controlled, we want to you think of
yourself as a higher risk and recommend that you be vaccinated."
H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine Rollout Still Bumpy
If you're thinking of taking the CDC's advice and getting your H1N1 swine
flu shot (or sniff), it's time to start making plans.
The flu.gov web site has a flu vaccine finder that links to each state. Most
states have detailed information that show which providers near you will be
offering the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.
The first vaccines are going to health care workers and people at risk of
flu complications. So far, about 13 million doses have been available to
states, more than half in the form of flu shots. States have placed orders for
about 11 million of those doses; those orders are being filled quickly.
Spread nationwide, that means not everyone who should get the vaccine will
be able to get it this week, or even next week. Availability is increasing, but
it's unlikely that the vaccine will reach everyone who wants it before the end
Will that be too late? The CDC's mantra is, "It's too early to say it's too
Schuchat points to what happened in 1957, when pandemic flu hit hard in the
early fall -- and was followed by a second wave of flu.
"In 1957, the pandemic hit early around September/October, like what we're
seeing here. They had another big wave after the first of the year," Schuchat
said. "And I think we have an opportunity right now to try to limit the disease
and to protect as many people as we can with the vaccine as it becomes
Meanwhile, Schuchat said, the CDC is not planning to stop its H1N1 swine flu
effort when all 250 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered.
"At CDC, we're planning a long response. We don't want to let our guard down
too soon on this," she said.
SOURCES: Anne Schuchat, MD, director, National Center for Immunization and
Respiratory Diseases, CDC, Atlanta.
CDC news conference.
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