A recent study by the UC Davis Medical Center has shown that boys and minority children are more likely to develop worse symptoms as a result of H1N1.
This study, run by JoAnne Natale and Ruth McDonald from the department of pediatrics, observed that 46 children, with an average age of 5.9 who were admitted from May 29 to Oct. 30, 2009.
“We wanted to focus on issues such as how sick they were [compared to other factors such as] their race, language and ethnicity,” Natale said.
The study concluded that boys were more susceptible than girls to worse symptoms and that 28 percent of those admitted were from limited English proficiency families. However, the study also concluded that non-white Hispanics were not represented proportionately in the study since only 35 percent of the children admitted were Hispanic in a region where 56 percent of the constituents are Hispanic.
The study also concluded that there was a broad spectrum of illness that was presented. It also concluded that serious symptoms could only be predicted in those that had respiratory failure when they were admitted.
Natale admitted that while immunization has lowered the severity of symptoms, only one of the patients they saw had actually received the vaccine prior to admission.
However, she still believed that more individuals should seek vaccination.
“In the future, we need to focus somewhat on limited English proficiency patients,” Natale said. “We need immunization for everyone but we need to especially focus on these populations.”
Dr. Jean Wiedeman, who works in pediatric infectious diseases, stated that the virus has been found to be more infectious in young adults and children than in older people. She also said that patients with underlying problems could show more severe symptoms of H1N1. She said that children who are immune compromised, obese or have underlying pulmonary or lung problems such as asthma are more at risk.
Wiedeman especially stressed obesity as a risk factor.
“We’re in the middle of an obesity epidemic,” she said. “Young individuals who are overweight are more at risk for H1N1 and other infectious diseases.”
Of the children admitted in the study, 35 had pulmonary abnormalities and 35 had respiratory symptoms. Asthma was very commonly presented and 80 percent of children reported other disorders in the past including seizure disorders, chromosomal abnormalities, developmental disorders and leukemia.
Cheryl Voney, deputy for public health programs at the Yolo County health department, said that H1N1 is still a risk. She said that the number of cases has gone down but that they still expect to see cases through the summer.
Voney also reminded students of things they can do to protect against viral infections.
“Students should follow basic personal hygiene such as washing hands, coughing into a tissue or sleeve and staying home when sick,” she said. “And it’s worthwhile to get vaccinated.”
Voney also added chronic diseases and diabetes to the list of factors that could increase risk of severe symptoms, stressing again pregnancy and obesity.
AKSHAYA RAMANUJAM can be reached at email@example.com.