The Journal of the American Medical Association has put a number of studies concerning H1N1 "swine" flu on its public Web site, and they make for scary reading.
(What's the great comic W.C. Fields doing here? Stay tuned.)
Like the 1918 pandemic this bug seems to seek out the young and healthy. If you're sick enough to be hospitalized there's a fair chance you won't come out alive. Modern medicine is better than it was a century ago but we still haven't licked this thing.
Still want to avoid the H1N1 shot, assuming that it's offered to you? Really? Really.
OK, let's go through the research:
- Health care workers get little protection from fancy masks. Workers given ordinary medical masks had a nearly 1 in 4 chance of getting the disease. The same for those given fancy N95 fitted masks. Many medical workers have been resisting getting the shot.
- Hospitals must be prepared for extraordinary burdens in the face of H1N1. "Hospitals must develop explicit policies to equitably determine who will and will not receive life support should absolute scarcity occur." Short version, convene the death panels now.
- Doctors in New Zealand and Australia tried a technique called ECMO (a heart-lung intervention usually used on premature infants) on 68 severely ill H1N1 patients. These young patients had a 21% mortality rate. The study's authors believed they did well. Six of the survivors were still in intensive care when the study was completed.
- A study of early victims in Mexico found critical illness concentrated in the young, with 58 of 899 patients admitted to the hospital. Among these 58, hospital admission "was associated with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome and shock, and had a high case-fatality rate." If you were sick enough to go to the hospital you were sick enough to die.
- A study in Canada of 168 patients admitted to intensive care, including kids, found a median age of 32, with nearly one-third of the patients children. A variety of techniques were tried but overall, about 18% of these patients died.
I have noted in comments here a blase attitude toward H1N1, and a definite resistance to get protection against it, for a variety of reasons.
W.C. Fields (above) famously called death the "fellow in the brite nightgown." A few years ago Donald Fagan turned this into a catchy song. To those unconcerned about H1N1 feel free to hum it on your way out the door, when said fellow gives you the victory hug.