The numbers behind young, healthy people dying from H1N1 flu

Originally published in Insidermedicine

Young, otherwise healthy people who contract H1N1 flu can rapidly deteriorate into a critically ill state in a manner that is eerily reminiscent of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, according to research published in the November 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association and presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine.

Here are some ways you can help protect yourself and others from contracting H1N1 flu:

• Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water

• Cough and sneeze in your arm or sleeve

• Stay home if you feel sick, especially if you are running a fever

Researchers from St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg observed 168 patients who contracted confirmed or probable cases of H1N1 flu and who became so critically ill they required care in hospital intensive care units (ICUs).

The average age of the patients was 32 years, and 30% were children. The patients experienced symptoms for an average of four days before being hospitalized and then rapidly deteriorated, requiring ICU care an average of a day or two later. These patients commonly experienced shock and multi-system organ failure, and over 80% required mechanical ventilation, usually for prolonged periods. Several other lung rescue measures were required to keep them alive. Ninety days after the onset of critical illness, just under 83% of patients were still alive.

Today’s research demonstrates how serious an illness H1N1 flu can be for young, otherwise healthy individuals and warns healthcare workers and institutions of the need to provide extensive lung support to a potentially large number of patients during an H1N1 flu outbreak.

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