H1N1 Swine Flu Deaths Rates Highest in Patients 50 and Older

RICHMOND, Calif., Nov. 5 (UPI) — Health officials say H1N1 primarily affects the young, but a study of California cases found H1N1 fatalities were highest in those 50 and older.

Dr. Janice K. Louie of the California department of public health and colleagues examined the clinical and epidemiologic features of the first 1,088 hospitalized and fatal cases due to pandemic influenza H1N1 reported in California from April 23 to Aug. 11.

The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that of the 1,088 H1N1 cases, 32 percent were children younger than 18 years, with infants having the highest rate of hospitalization and people age 50 or older having the highest rate of death once hospitalized.

The median age of all of the H1N1 cases was 27 years. Fever, cough, and shortness of breath were the most common symptoms. Underlying conditions previously associated with severe influenza were reported in 68 percent of cases. Other underlying medical illnesses recorded included obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and gastrointestinal disease, the researchers say.

“Overall fatality was 11 percent and was highest in persons age 50 and older,” the researchers say in a statement. “Of the deaths, 7 percent were children younger than 18 years. Among fatal cases, the median time from onset of symptoms to death was 12 days.”

The most common causes of death were viral pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, the researchers say.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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