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Getting to the core of H1N1 flu deaths

Fatalities show lungs are overwhelmed; antiviral drugs, ventilation to replace lost oxygen can rescue patients

12:28pm, October 12, 2009

Lung inflammation and respiratory failure are largely responsible for the fatal cases of H1N1 (swine) flu seen so far, three new studies show. The findings also confirm observations that the influenza hits young adults the hardest but can be fought off in many cases with the use of antiviral flu drugs and a mechanical ventilator to aid breathing.

The new studies offer the first large-scale analyses of how the H1N1 flu causes life-threatening illness. All three reports find a consistent pattern of oxygen deprivation in the blood of critically ill patients, a dangerous condition that in the worst-case scenario leads to shock, organ failure and death, the researchers report online October 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The studies were conducted between early March and late August in Canada, Mexico and Australia and New Zealand.

“The data suggests it starts as a diffuse viral pneumonia,” says physician Anand Kumar of the Unive

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