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13-07-2010 | Infectious disease | Article

Half of UK swine flu deaths in otherwise healthy individuals

Abstract

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MedWire News: Over half of hospital admissions for swine flu in the UK and 59% of all in-hospital deaths due to the infection between May and September 2009 occurred in generally healthy individuals, first-wave data reveal.

The findings support the current government policy of prioritizing pregnant women, children under 5 years old, and those with long-term respiratory illness for vaccination against H1N1 infection.

The findings, published in the journal Thorax, are based on data collected on 631 patients with swine flu from 55 hospitals in 20 cities or towns as part of the Influenza Clinical Information Network surveillance program.

The patients were aged 3 months to 90 years, 405 were adults, and 16% were under 5 years of age, while 5% were 65 years and older.

Pregnant women made up 4% of total admissions for swine flu and once infected were three times as likely to require hospital admission as other women. Just under half of the patients had underlying medical conditions, of which asthma was the most common, in both adults and children, and just over half had non-severe asthma.

The most common presenting symptoms of swine flu were fever and cough in adults and children, but Peter Openshaw, from Imperial College London in the UK, and colleagues note that around one in four adults and children did not have fever on admission and only about half had a fever of 38°C or above.

In total 13% of patients were admitted to a high dependency or intensive care unit, and 5% died.

Risk factors for death included an abnormal chest X-ray or a raised C-reactive protein level, especially in patients who are obese or who have pulmonary conditions other than asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Openshaw and team conclude: "Our findings support the use of H1N1 pandemic vaccine in pregnant women, children aged less than 5 years and those with chronic lung disease as a priority, including patients with asthma, regardless of severity."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By MedWire Reporters

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