Saturday, May 09, 2009

What its like to have swine flu 

What I like about the Effect Measure blog is that it is so well written that I, a completely non-medical non-statistical person, can actually understand the articles. Here's one about the swine flu cases that describes some of the most recent research about this new kind of flu very clearly:
60% of the cases reported in this paper were under 18 years of age. 18% had recently traveled to Mexico, although in yesterday's CDC briefing it was said that the travel associated cases are now only 10% of the US total as sustained person to person transmission begins to take hold on US soil. The most common presenting symptom was fever (94%) followed by cough (92%) and sore throat (66%). Unusually for respiratory influenza, 25% had diarrhea and 25% vomiting.
Hospitalization status was known for 399 of the cases and amounted to 36 in the series (it has since increased). . . . Sufficient information on 22 hospitalized patients showed that 12, or about half, had underlying medical conditions that might have increased risk, but half did not, that is, they were previously healthy individuals, many of them young. There were 11 cases of pneumonia among the hospitalized. 8 wound up in intensive care, 4 had respiratory failure and 2 died.
All of these things happen with seasonal influenza, too, so it doesn't mean this is an especially virulent version of flu. It may well qualify for the much used term, "mild," in that regard, because real seasonal influenza is an inherently nasty illness.
But for these patients, half of them previously healthy and on average quite young, "mild" won't cut it as a description of what they went through. Something to keep in mind.

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