Friday, August 13, 2010

Swine flu or novel human influenza: Organ transplant patients at greater risk

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 13: With swine flu re-emerging this season with renewed vigour, health experts have found that organ transplant patients are at greater risk of infection and even death.

People, who have undergone organ transplant, are more susceptible than ordinary patients to the novel human influenza virus 2009. The infection rate is quite high in adults, who had received organ transplants. Though the virus affected children too, the infection was not as severe as in adults.

According to Dr Deepali Kumar, expert in transplant-related infectious diseases from the University of Alberta, as many as 71 per cent of organ transplant patients had reported pneumonia and had to be admitted to ICU.
"We assessed 237 cases of medically attended influenza A H1N1 reported from 26 transplant centres. Transplant types included kidney, liver, heart and lung," she said.

Of the 237 patients examined, 73 had pneumonia, 37 were admitted to ICUs, and 10 succumbed to swine flu.

Those who had antiviral treatment within two days of onset of symptoms recovered fast indicating that organ transplant patients should be put on antiviral treatment in case they report symptoms of swine flu. Only eight per cent of patients who received antiviral drugs within two days required intensive care as against 22 per cent of patients, who had late antiviral treatment.

"Children who received transplants were less likely to present with pneumonia than adults, but rates of admission to hospital and ICU were similar," Dr Deepali said. Starting antiviral therapy early is associated with clinical benefit as measured by need for ICU admission and mechanical ventilation.

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