A report by health officials in Michigan links the severity of swine flu cases with obese patients, in what could amount to a higher threat to America and to western nations this coming fall.
President Obama recently alerted Americans to the coming threat of a resurgent swine flu epidemic this autumn - and if a report that emerged in Michigan is any indication, obese Americans could face higher risk of complications from the H1N1 virus.
The issue is a significant one for the United States, as obesity is an epidemic unto itself.
"A high proportion of those who have gotten severely ill from swine flu have been obese or extremely obese, but health officials have said that might be due to the fact that heavy people tend to have asthma and other conditions that make them more susceptible," Associated Press reported. "Obesity alone has never been seen as a risk factor for seasonal flu."
Michigan health officials examined the cases of 10 patients who had become severely ill with the swine flu bug. 90 percent of those studied were obese or extremely obese, and only 3 of the 10 had other health problems.
While this information is not necessarily enough to point definitively at obesity, AP notes, "Five of the patients developed blood clots in their lungs, and six had kidney failure. Those complications have been seen in some swine flu patients before, but not usually in such a high proportion."
"Clinicians need to be aware that severe complications can occur in patients with the novel H1N1 virus, particularly in extremely obese patients," Dr. Tim Uyeki, a flu expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told AP.