Obesity a Risk Factor for H1N1 Influenza Mortality?

Since July 10, the media are awash with reports about obesity as a predictor of H1N1 (Swine Flu) mortality (e.g. see report on CTV).

This information is based on a recent mention in the US Centers Disease Control (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on the high proportion of moderate and severe obesity in individuals, who have died of H1N1 infections.

Dr. Tim Uyeki, a flu expert at the CDC is quoted as saying, “Clinicians need to be aware that severe complications can occur in patients with the novel H1N1 virus, particularly in extremely obese patients”. 

The relationship is perhaps explained by the higher incidence of asthma and other respiratory problems in obese patients, including the higher risk of complications (blood clots, organ failure, etc.) that can make management of obese patients with respiratory failure particularly challenging.

Message to clinicians: be particularly aware of the increased risk of rapid decompensation in obese patients with flu-like symptoms – these patients may well warrant special attention and monitoring for early signs of deterioration.

Dushesnay, Quebec