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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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H1N1 Swine Flu Deadly to the Young

88% of H1N1 Swine Flu Deaths Are People Under Age 65, Reversing Seasonal Trend
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 20, 2009 - H1N1 swine flu has turned flu death statistics upside down, the CDC today confirmed.

In a normal flu season, 90% of deaths are in elderly people. Since September, 90% of deaths have been in people under age 65 -- with almost a quarter of the deaths in young people under age 25.

"It is almost completely reversed. Nearly 90% of our fatalities are occurring in people under 65," CDC respiratory disease chief Anne Schuchat, MD, said at a news conference. "This illustrates this H1N1 virus is disproportionally affecting the young."

As might be expected from the death toll, most people hospitalized with severe H1N1 swine flu are young. Surveillance data from 27 states show that more than half of swine flu hospitalizations -- 53% -- are in people under age 25. Only 7% of people hospitalized with swine flu are elderly.

While the majority of severe H1N1 swine flu cases are in people with conditions that put them at risk of flu complications, not all these conditions are severe. Well-treated asthma, for example, is common. And pregnancy isn't an illnesses at all. Yet the risk is there.

"Completely healthy pregnant women are coming down with horrible, horrible illnesses -- and, tragically more deaths," Schuchat said. "And some conditions like asthma which is well controlled. So even if you have diabetes that's well controlled, if you have asthma that's well controlled, we want to you think of yourself as a higher risk and recommend that you be vaccinated."

H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine Rollout Still Bumpy

If you're thinking of taking the CDC's advice and getting your H1N1 swine flu shot (or sniff), it's time to start making plans.

The web site has a flu vaccine finder that links to each state. Most states have detailed information that show which providers near you will be offering the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.

The first vaccines are going to health care workers and people at risk of flu complications. So far, about 13 million doses have been available to states, more than half in the form of flu shots. States have placed orders for about 11 million of those doses; those orders are being filled quickly.

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