H1N1 drives deep into the lungs to kill

Even while a vaccine for H1N1 becomes far more available, doctors are discovering the virus creates infections far deeper in the lungs than seasonal flus.

The pattern of infection among the tiny percentage of people who have died from the virus mirrors the infection methods in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, according to a report on CNN. The story also describes how someone dies from H1N1 infection. Their lungs cease to function well enough to give the victim sufficient air.

“Generally, flu stays in the upper airways,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “What this shows is clearly this virus has capability of infecting and causing inflammation and destruction of cells from the trachea, all the way down into smaller cells of the lungs. “The cells of the lung get directly attacked by the virus,” said Fauci.”

Nine out of every 10 people who have died from H1N1 have “underlying conditions” that are pushed into critical status by losing respiratory function. Like a profiler on a CSI episode, the medical community is trying to match conditions to deaths. 72 percent of those who have died had obesity in their profile.

Vanderbilt University researcher Dr. William Schaffner, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the university’s School of Medicine, was surprised by the H1N1 fatality-obesity connection.

“That was a striking finding,” said Schaffner. “It contributes in a very material way to what we know about risks for a severe outcome with H1N1 infection. We are keeping an eye on obesity as a risk factor for H1N1 death.”


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