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PLoS One. 2010 Mar 15;5(3):e9694. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009694.

Morbid obesity as a risk factor for hospitalization and death due to 2009 pandemic influenza A(H1N1) disease.

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  • 1Division of Emerging Infections and Surveillance Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America.



Severe illness due to 2009 pandemic A(H1N1) infection has been reported among persons who are obese or morbidly obese. We assessed whether obesity is a risk factor for hospitalization and death due to 2009 pandemic influenza A(H1N1), independent of chronic medical conditions considered by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to increase the risk of influenza-related complications.


We used a case-cohort design to compare cases of hospitalizations and deaths from 2009 pandemic A(H1N1) influenza occurring between April-July, 2009, with a cohort of the U.S. population estimated from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES); pregnant women and children <2 years old were excluded. For hospitalizations, we defined categories of relative weight by body mass index (BMI, kg/m(2)); for deaths, obesity or morbid obesity was recorded on medical charts, and death certificates. Odds ratio (OR) of being in each BMI category was determined; normal weight was the reference category. Overall, 361 hospitalizations and 233 deaths included information to determine BMI category and presence of ACIP-recognized medical conditions. Among >or=20 year olds, hospitalization was associated with being morbidly obese (BMI>or=40) for individuals with ACIP-recognized chronic conditions (OR = 4.9, 95% CI 2.4-9.9) and without ACIP-recognized chronic conditions (OR = 4.7, 95%CI 1.3-17.2). Among 2-19 year olds, hospitalization was associated with being underweight (BMI<or=5(th) percentile) among those with (OR = 12.5, 95%CI 3.4-45.5) and without (OR = 5.5, 95%CI 1.3-22.5) ACIP-recognized chronic conditions. Death was not associated with BMI category among individuals 2-19 years old. Among individuals aged >or=20 years without ACIP-recognized chronic medical conditions death was associated with obesity (OR = 3.1, 95%CI: 1.5-6.6) and morbid obesity (OR = 7.6, 95%CI 2.1-27.9).


Our findings support observations that morbid obesity may be associated with hospitalization and possibly death due to 2009 pandemic H1N1 infection. These complications could be prevented by early antiviral therapy and vaccination.

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