Monday, October 12, 2009

Studying the past to track the H1N1 path of tomorrow

"The ages in the mortality pattern were similar to that of the 1918 H1N1 Spanish flu pandemic"-- One of the key findings of the latest research into the current increase in H1N1 reports.

Researchers looking to find traits and indicators for this fall's anticipated H1N1 outbreak have found some disturbing details of Canada's most recent bout with the virus earlier this year, among the reported 168 Canadian cases studied for the report, the majority of the victims who died or were sent to hospital earlier this year with H1N1 virus were young adults, female and aboriginal.

They were findings that were also reported in a report last week from U.S., Australia and New Zealand health officials who have been tracking developments in their nations.

The current Canadian study presents a situation that draws an eerie parallel with 1918 and what became known as the Spanish Flu Epidemic, researchers are finding similar numbers and demographics combining in the study cases, which strike a cautious reminder to those days of 1918 which caused no shortage of death and misery around the world.

A more recent indicator of what may be to come was observed from Mexico earlier this year, where the mortality rate was twice as high as Canada's at the time but where the health care system struggled to cope with the onslaught of cases that were presented to Mexican doctors and emergency room nurses.

Among some of the recommendations from the report were:

Regionalizing care to preserve resources at other hospitals for other patients.

Developing telemedicine consultations for doctors in outlying hospitals to check with experts.

Make temporary staffing changes at hospitals to ensure doctors who are experienced in handling these cases are always present.

Just a few suggestions one imagines, with many others to come, from what could be a very interesting and worrisome fall and winter period in the northern hemisphere.

You can read the full report from the American Journal of Medicine here.

Some of the other media reports on the topic can be found below.

CBC-- Severe H1N1 infection in females 'striking': study
Globe and Mail-- Younger women hard hit by H1N1 virus, study suggests
Canadian Press-- Without high-tech care, H1N1 death toll could soar, studies suggest
Science Daily-- H1N1 Critical Illness Can Occur Rapidly; Predominantly Affects Young Patients
Time Magazine-- Swine flu research: H1N1 mostly affects younger patients, can turn critical quickly

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