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Bacterial Infections Are a Factor in Many H1N1 Deaths

Finding underscores importance of pneumococcal vaccination for those at high risk for pneumonia

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Many patients who have died of H1N1 influenza this year had a bacterial co-infection that likely contributed to their deaths, according to a Sept. 29 early release of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

From May 1 to Aug. 20, 2009, medical examiners and local and state health departments from across the country submitted to the CDC postmortem lung specimens from 77 patients who died of H1N1 influenza. The agency examined the specimens for bacterial causes of pneumonia. In previous flu pandemics, studies have shown that most deaths attributable to the flu also involved bacterial pneumonia.

The CDC found evidence of concurrent bacterial infection in specimens from 22 (29 percent) of the 77 patients. Ten of those infections were caused by Streptococcus pneumonia (pneumococcus). Duration of illness, which was available for 17 of the 22 patients with bacterial infection, ranged from one to 25 days, with a median of six days.

"These findings confirm that bacterial lung infections are occurring among patients with fatal cases of 2009 pandemic influenza A (H1N1) and underscore both the importance of pneumococcal vaccination for persons at increased risk for pneumococcal pneumonia and the need for early recognition of bacterial pneumonia in persons with influenza."

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