'Severe' form of swine flu emerges1st September 2009
A new form of swine flu that directly targets the lungs is severe in otherwise healthy young people, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The disease is expensive to treat and requires hospitalisation in intensive care units.
In some countries, health agencies report that as many as 15% of people needing hospital treatment for swine flu in the first place, end up in intensive care.
The WHO said that, during the winter season in the southern hemisphere, several countries have viewed the need for intensive care as the greatest burden on health services.
It said that preparedness measures need to anticipate this increased demand on intensive care units, which could be overwhelmed by a sudden surge in the number of severe cases.
The WHO also recently reported that H1N1 swine flu has become endemic in Japan, as well as becoming stronger in the world’s tropical regions.
It said that clinicians from around the world are reporting a very severe form of disease in young and otherwise healthy people, rarely seen during seasonal influenza infections, causing severe respiratory failure.
Indigenous populations living in postcolonial societies, as well as ethnic minority groups, may also be at higher risk from the new, severe H1N1 swine flu.
The WHO said that, although the reasons are not fully understood, possible explanations why these groups may have four or five times more risk than other people include lower standards of living and poor overall health status, since there are higher rates of asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and other debilitating conditions in such populations.
It also said that countries in the northern hemisphere should prepare for a second wave of the disease, as well as countries with tropical climates, where the pandemic virus arrived later than elsewhere.
Seasonal flu usually infects 5-10% of any given population yearly, killing between 250,000 and 500,000 around the world, mainly causing problems for elderly people.
However, experts believe that up to one third of the world population could be infected by H1N1 swine flu this season.
Younger people are at a higher risk for the disease than with seasonal flu, specifically those with athsma, diabetes, immunosuppression, and cardiovascular or respiratory disease.
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