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Risk Communication Key to Keeping H1N1 Deaths Down

Seasonal flu vaccine merits investigation for possible protection against H1N1 strain

THURSDAY, Nov. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Hospital preparedness and risk communication are crucial to the reduction in mortality due to H1N1 influenza, according to a study published online Nov. 12 in The Lancet.

To calculate the odds of hospital admission and death, Santiago Echevarria-Zuno, M.D., of the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social in Mexico City, and colleagues assessed influenza surveillance data from the April to July 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak in Mexico comprising 63,479 cases of influenza-like illness, of which 6,945 were confirmed cases.

Of the confirmed cases, 6,407 (92 percent) were outpatients, 475 (7 percent) were admitted to hospital and survived, while 63 (less than 1 percent) died, the researchers discovered. Patients aged 10 to 39 years accounted for 3,922 (56 percent) of the total, while the risk of mortality was greatest for those aged 70 years and above, at 10.3 percent. Furthermore, the authors note, there was an increased risk of mortality among cases with delayed admission and chronic comorbidities.

"Our data suggest that seasonal influenza vaccination could reduce the risk of H1N1 infection," Echevarria-Zuno and colleagues conclude. "Some researchers believe, with the information available up to now, that the present H1N1 influenza virus will not cause a pandemic on the scale of those during the 20th century. This pandemic might not be the one we expected; however, the virus is evolving and the threat continues."

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