Obese individuals and pregnant women are more susceptible to this year's flu virus

Thursday, January 23, 2014 by: Josh Anderson
Tags: flu virus, obese individuals, pregnant women

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(NaturalNews) Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released statistics indicating that almost half of all hospitalized adults in the United States are obese. Obese adults account for 46% of all adults hospitalized with influenza. While this is attributed to the relationship between the immune system and obesity, the stark rise in percentage from previous years is raising eyebrows.

In previous years, only 20-30% of the adults hospitalized with the flu were obese; this year's strain of influenza seems to particularly affect obese individuals. Not only are the obese getting hit the hardest this flu season, but pregnant women are being affected more as well. Normally, only 4-5% of adults hospitalized were pregnant women, but this year, that number is around 22%. One of the more common flu strains circulating in the United States this flu season is H1N1, which also circulated during the 2009-2010 flu season. That same H1N1 strain in the 2009-2010 flu season was estimated by the CDC to account for 8,870 to 18,300 flu-related deaths in the United States alone.

Obesity is known to be linked to diabetes, heart disease and autoimmune disease. Obesity can prevent the body from properly turning on the immune system, making obese individuals more susceptible to infections. For instance, a 2005 study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill indicated that obese mice were not nearly as capable as normal, lean mice in fighting against the flu. In fact, they were 50% less capable at killing the flu virus! Likewise, pregnant women are known to have an altered immune system due to stress, sleep deficiency and physiological changes that occur during pregnancy. This decreased immune deficiency can make them more susceptible to infection, which can lead to fetal complications.

While the ability of these two groups' immune systems to defend the body against infection is known, the reason why obese individuals and pregnant women are so susceptible to H1N1 compared to other flu strains is alarming. If it was solely related to the immune deficiency of these two groups, they should be affected the same each year. More research is needed to determine why obese individuals and pregnant women are more susceptible to this specific flu virus.

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