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Being overweight or obese may put you at risk for many serious health conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. That extra weight can also make you more susceptible to the swine flu virus, also known as influenza A/H1N1pdm, revealed a new study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
While the world is currently reeling under the COVID-19 pandemic, some experts have warned the possibility of another swine flu pandemic. If obese people are at higher risk of getting infected with the influenza virus, then it means a lot more infections as there's a lot more obesity - noted Hannah Maier, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and first author of the study.
Obesity around the whole world is increasing rapidly and it's approximately tripled since the '70s, Maier added.
Maier and colleagues looked at data from more than 1,500 individuals, who were followed for 10-15 days, conducting swab tests and blood tests to confirm infection. They found that adults with obesity had twice the odds of symptomatic H1N1 infection compared to those who were not obese. However, they didn't know exactly how obesity leads to increased disease severity. They also did not see the association with the H3N2 seasonal influenza strain.
Previous studies have shown that obesity increases proinflammatory and decreases anti-inflammatory cytokine levels. Researchers also say obesity can impair wound healing and lead to mechanical difficulties in breathing and increased oxygen requirements.
In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in June, 2020, Chinese researchers raised concern that a new strain of H1N1 discovered in pigs in China has the potential to become a pandemic.
Called G4 EA H1N1, the new flu strain is believed to be a version of the swine flu (H1N1 virus) that caused a pandemic in 2009. The 2009 swine flu pandemic lasted for about 19 months, from January 2009 to August 2010 and killed around 2,84,000 people worldwide. The first pandemic involving H1N1 influenza virus was the Spanish flu pandemic that lasted from February 1918 to April 1920. The Spanish flu infected 500 million people about a third of the world's population at the time in four successive waves and killed about 5 crore people.
The new flu strain discovered in China has the ability to grow and multiply in the cells that line the human airways the researchers said. They fear that the virus may mutate further and spread easily in humans, leading to another global outbreak.
According to the study, about 10.4 percent of people who work in abattoirs and the swine industry in China have already been infected by the new virus. While these are dead-end infections, meaning the infected people didn't spread it to other people, the researchers said that the virus may adapt to become transmissible between humans.
Therefore, they called for close monitoring of swine industry workers to prevent and prepare for a potential pandemic.
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