Thursday, 22 October 2009

Healthy 'at risk' from swine flu

The general view of the public is probably that everyone can get swine flu but only the unhealthy suffer serious complications. It's reinforced by the health authorities declaring Mr or Mrs X had "underlying health problems" (UHPs). But as we have seen, even soldiers who have just passed a full medical can succumb to this virus.

The Health Protection Agency has said that about one-fifth of deaths from swine flu are among the fully fit. Now the latest report by the World Health Organisation highlights the number in intensive care who had "no predisposing conditions". There's still a lack of clarity over what are UHPs (pneumonia sure - but what about pregnancy or that the person is a smoker?) but I can do no better than quote the relevant part of the WHO report:

"Three articles of interest published this week in the peer reviewed literature reported three different series of seriously ill pandemic influenza patients in Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand. Several important observations were made including:

• A significant portion of patients with severe disease requiring intensive care had no predisposing conditions. The numbers are not directly comparable as the studies categorized conditions differently but nearly 1/3 of ICU patients in Australia and New Zealand had no predisposing conditions. 98% of ICU cases in Canada had a comorbid condition, which in this report included hypertension, smoking, and substance abuse, but only 30% had comorbid conditions that were considered "major". In Mexico, 84% of critical patients had an underlying condition, which in the report included hypertension, ever having smoked, and hyperlipidemia, conditions that are not considered risk factors for severe influenza outcomes. All three groups were impressed by the number of severe cases occurring in previously healthy individuals."

and here's the link to the rest of the article. Methinks the simplest answer to which members of the swine flu family (pictured above) should get vaccinated, is "all of them".

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