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Obesity independent risk for H1N1 swine flu deaths

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Findings show obesity is an independent risk contributing to H1N1 swine flu deaths in 2009.

Though researchers aren't sure why, the study from the California Department of Public Health revealed half of Californians hospitalized for H1N1 flu, over age 20 were obese and at high risk of dying from the disease.

Based on the research that examined public health records, the scientists say obesity should be considered a major risk factor for dying when it comes to prioritizing treatment for H1N1 flu. The study found extreme obesity doubled the chances of dying from swine flu.

The study examined the records of more than 500 individuals hospitalized for H1N1 flu during the first 4 months of the pandemic, seeking to find out if co-morbidities from obesity or the flu itself were responsible for swine flu related mortalities in 2009.

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In each case, defined as a definite diagnosis of H1N1 flu and hospitalized within 24 hours of symptom onset, the researchers also looked at demographics, co-morbidities and laboratory and x-ray findings.

Cause of swine flu deaths was determined from was determined from reviews of medical records or death certificates by local health department or CDPH staff. Body mass index was also calculated based on information about height and weight, using the NIH’s standard of BMI >30 as obese.

The authors caution the study limitations include use of nonstandard medical records, relying on physician reporting. They warm that some underreporting could have occurred.

The findings support past studies that obesity puts individuals at higher risk for dying from H1N1 flu. The study authors also noted higher body mass index led to more intensive care unit admissions. Of the 92 patients who died, 50 percent were obese, and 30 percent had a body mass index 45 or greater.