Who Is at the Highest Risk for the Swine Flu?

At a certain level, H1N1, or the swine flu, is just another strain of influenza. Anyone can catch the flu, including H1N1, but a healthy body can normally fight off influenza in less than two weeks without the use of antiviral medications or other medical interventions.

The problems occur when an infected body isn't so healthy. When your body can't fight off H1N1 well enough, complications arise. The people at the highest risk of H1N1 complications, and therefore of the most serious and possibly deadly effects, are

  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2

  • Adults 65 years of age and older

    About a third of adults older than 60 may already have antibodies against the H1N1 virus, though how much protection this antibody will actually afford against the 2009 H1N1 is unknown. Many people in this age group also have medical conditions that compound their risk of flu-related complications.

  • Pregnant women

A number of medical conditions can raise a person's susceptibility to H1N1 as well as intensify the effects of having the illness. You're in the high-risk group for H1N1 complications if you have

  • Asthma

  • Neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions

  • Chronic lung disease

  • Heart disease

  • Blood disorders

  • Endocrine, kidney, or liver disorders

  • Metabolic disorders

  • A weakened immune system due to disease or medication

As the H1N1 vaccination is rolled out nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend targeting the vaccine first at the high-risk populations mentioned above, as well as

  • People who live with or care for children under 6 months old

  • Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel

  • Anyone under 24 years old

For more information, see the CDC offers a lot of great H1N1 information that is updated regularly.

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