Friday, May 8, 2009

What's different about H1N1 so far?

An article in the MMWR yesterday ( made note of two unusual characteristics of the current H1N1 outbreaks -

"Several characteristics of this outbreak appear unusual compared with a typical influenza seasonal outbreak. First, the percentage of patients requiring hospitalization appears to be higher than would be expected during a typical influenza season. Second, the age distribution of hospitalizations for novel influenza A (H1N1) virus infection is different than that of hospitalizations for seasonal influenza, which typically occur among children aged <2>65 years, and persons with chronic health conditions. In Mexico and the United States, the percentage of patients requiring hospitalization has been particularly high among persons aged 30–44 years. "

Why do these characteristics matter? Even if the virus continues to cause mostly mild illness, a higher hospitalization rate could make a big impact on health facilities everywhere if this virus continued to spread globally as pandemic influenza and we entered phase 6.

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