- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
How Does Swine Flu Kill You
How Swine Flu Kills You
In the past two weeks, there have been approximately 1,000 flu or pneumonia-related deaths in the US. This is up from 100 deaths weekly on the previous two weeks. This is due to the sharp increase of infected cases from the opening of schools. With that in mind, the extent of the H1N1 virus is vastly overrated and its virulence is definitely underrated. Hospitalized patients have faced a mortality rate approaching 10%, and the overall mortality seems to be hanging around 1%*. If this holds true during the extent of the virus, millions could die in the US alone.
The reason behind this is generally unknown, but there is significant evidence that the flu is mutating. It has shown increasing Tamiflu resistance and a mutation that increases transmissibility in colder temperatures, meaning a higher viral load (and worse outcomes) as the temperature drops in the Northern Hemisphere. There is another unnamed mutation that was reported in two US fatalities, but the sequences have not been released. The virus, contrary to what the CDC has been saying, is highly unstable and capable of mutation. There are several strains circulating around the world right now, and the US seems to be hit particularly hard.
Studies have shown that it is over one hundred times more effective than seasonal flu when in the lungs. Some health officials have referred to it as avian flu on steroids. That said, the flu can survive outside of the lungs, which is why we also see a good amount of mild cases. If it stays in the upper respiratory system, then you're likely to survive.
If it goes into your lungs, however, your odds of dying could be over 8%. Once ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) happens, you have a 50% chance of dying. The reason this happens is because the flu burrows deep into the lungs and destroys the alveoli, which can cause the lungs to fail. The lungs of the deceased have frequently been cited as highly blistered and excessive bleeding or fluid build up in the lungs is often said to be a cause of death. It is not uncommon for people to cough up blood because of the cellular damage caused by the immune response (and the virus itself).
Another cause of death has been multisystem organ failure, which can occur from a lack of oxygen in the blood or from a secondary bacterial infection causing septicemia or similar. Which brings me to another point: H1N1 isn't always listed as the cause of death because it often paves the way for secondary infections. Bacterial pneumonia is a common secondary infection, especially if the patient has been on a ventilator for some time or if they spent time in a hospital. Strep throat and MRSA (staph infection) are other common co-infections and causes of death in people with H1N1. Studies have shown that co-infection with seasonal influenza can significantly increase the mortality rate.
The above, coupled with the fact that rapid tests are sometimes less than 50% sensitive to Influenza A means that a lot of people are misdiagnosed and not treated with Tamiflu on time. It also causes some deaths to go unreported. Strep throat, for example, is not viewed as a dangerous disease but it can be when coupled with H1N1. Be wary and get multiple opinions or tests if you don't recover quickly. A common sign of bacterial co-infection is a brief period of recovery followed by increased illness.
Remember that bacterial co-infection is the most likely way for swine flu to kill you.
Sometimes the people that survive swine flu have it just as bad as the people that don't.
The flu, if you catch it in the lungs, can cause serious damage and scarring. Your lungs will take a long time to heal and will never be the same afterward. There have been people put on respirators for three or more months, while others have lost 20 or 30 pounds and are shells of their former selves. Some of these people will have to be on oxygen for the rest of their lives. It's important to remember that most of these cases have been in healthy, young people.
Do your own research and don't put too much stock into official statements.
This flu is severely underestimated, and it is becoming apparent that certain health officials are muddying the waters so it is more difficult to get information. This could be due to the fact that it's estimated that closing the schools will cost $45 billion. Is that the price of life? Make sure to protect yourself and to gather all of the information you can about this flu.
Quick Tips On Surving The Flu
- Drink plenty of water
- Get Tamiflu early if you show flu symptoms
- Avoid unventilated areas and sick people
- Get the vaccine if you're in a high risk group
- Get multiple opinions if you continue to be sick
- Have preparations for at least 2 weeks for if your community is hit hard
Swine Flu Survival Guide
This is a comprehensive guide on how to survive any pandemic, including the swine and bird flu. You'll want to have this information if the flu comes to your community.
What Demographics Are Most At Risk?
Unlike the seasonal flu, which kills mainly the elderly and the very young, the swine flu has been striking down people in their prime. The age group that has been hit the hardest is the 1-24 age group. This is because these are the people that have been going back to school and where the flu is most active at the moment. With that in mind, the flu is more dangerous to older people, especially those in their 30s and 40s - the mortality rate might even be double in this age group. The elderly appear to have some immunity to the virus, probably from past pandemics like the Spanish and Hong Kong flues. With that in mind, they are still the most likely to die if they contract the flu.
The main risk factor for this flu, however, is pregnancy. If you're pregnant, the odds of you dying from the swine flu may increase as much as 10 fold. About 10% of deaths have been in pregnant women, where they generally constitute less than 1% of the population. Other risk factors include: chronic illness, including autoimmune diseases, asthma, cancer, and obesity. If you fall into any risk categories, avoid people that are sick and go to the doctor immediately if you become ill.
What Type Of Mask?
N95 respirators are recommended for health care workers dealing with swine flu patients. A recent study, however, has shown that surgical masks can offer similar protection from the flu. This is because the N95 mask isn't large enough to block all of the particles, but it does stop a lot and will prevent you from touching your mouth with your hands. With that in mind, I do recommend the N95 masks, although they are more uncomfortable and slightly more expensive.
Another thing that is linked to H1N1 severity is Vitamin D deficiency. Make sure you get plenty of sunlight and take your vitamins if you want to circumvent this problem. This is a relatively cheap and easy way to protect yourself from the flu.
And remember, if you get sick, stay hydrated! This flu can cause diarrhea and vomiting, on top of normal flu symptoms. These things can and will lead to dehydration if you don't drink plenty of water.
*Calculating the Overall Mortality Rate of P&I
It's impossible to calculate the mortality rate of H1N1 because many deaths aren't tested because rapid tests turned up a negative result, but the bacterial co-infection was detected.
So, on with the calculations:
The who describes the median time from onset of symptoms to death of H1N1 to be ~10 days. With that in mind, we can take the data from this chart and from the CDC weekly updates and use it to estimate the mortality rate of P&I. Note that this is for pneumonia and influenza and includes all deaths associated with pneumonia and influenza, not just laboratory confirmed deaths.
First, I add up the weekly influenza activity from week 33 (not including the most recent due to the time from onset of symptoms to death) and I get 89309. Then divide that by the total number of deaths, 1379 to get a 1.54% mortality rate.
The actual H1N1 mortality rate is difficult to calculate due to lack of testing and under reporting of deaths. We can extrapolate some data from what the CDC has said: 15% of cases are hospitalized and ~5.5% of those die, giving us a mortality rate of about .8%. Note that deaths lag hospitalized cases by about week, so the number could be off by as much as .2%. This means that the swine flu has a .5-1% chance of killing you, on average.
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- Swine flu deaths show this flu is different: experts | Health | Reuters
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- The Hindu: H1N1 turns virulent
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