Swine Flu Threatens Obese

A recent survey of swine flu patients indicates that obese people face as much risk of serious complications from the H1N1 strain of influenza as diabetics, pregnant women, and heart disease patients.

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The H1N1 strain of influenza – better known as swine flu – became epidemic around the world this spring. Although most Westernized nations have been able to keep the disease in check, swine flu has had an especially devastating effect in countries where inadequate sanitation, brittle health care resources, and the generally poor health of the population have put large numbers of people at risk.

But despite our advanced healthcare and sanitation systems, one group here in the U.S. is also at risk.

A new survey of swine flu patients in California hospitals indicates that obese people are as much at risk of serious complications from swine flu as diabetics, pregnant women, and heart disease patients.

CDC epidemiologists involved with the California outbreak were surprised by the frequency of obesity among the severe H1N1 cases. The CDC is said to be “looking into” the possibility that obese people should be given priority with other high-risk groups should a swine flu vaccine become available.

But why would obesity make a person more susceptible to serious complications from swine flu?

Some researchers suspect that obese people, who can suffer from restricted breathing due to the amount of pressure on their lungs caused by the excess weight, may have problems getting enough air and expelling congestion from their lungs when infected with swine flu.

Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization, warned in an interview with Britain’s daily Financial Times newspaper that swine flu may re-emerge stronger than ever, even if the current outbreak appears to be declining. As if the standard comorbidities weren’t enough reason, given the possibility of a second wave of swine flu, it only makes sense to lose that excess weight. The healthier you are, the better equipped you’ll be to fight off the virus and take care of others if swine flu comes to your town.