Two more deaths linked to swine flu — both of adults in their 40s — were reported by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Wednesday, bringing the total H1N1-related fatalities in the city to seven.
The department said that six of the seven people who had died — including Mitchell Wiener, an assistant principal at a public school in Queens, who was the first swine-flu death in the city — had underlying conditions, including obesity, that can interfere with normal breathing. The seventh death is still under investigation. The city will not release the underlying medical conditions, citing medical confidentiality.
However, the department did release an analysis that showed some 80 percent of the more than 300 people hospitalized with swine flu since mid-April have one or more underlying condition that put them at risk. Asthma, which affects 10 percent of New York City children, is by far the most common underlying condition, affecting some 41 percent of those hospitalized. The analysis also found that about 18 percent of those hospitalized were under 2 years of age, 13 percent had a compromised immune system, and 12 percent had heart disease. Other risk factors include pregnancy, obesity, diabetes, kidney problems, blood disorders, emphysema and liver problems. A more detailed analysis of hospitalized patients’ health histories is still being conducted.
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The health department recommended that anyone with chronic illness — especially asthma — should see a doctor if they develop flulike symptoms. It also emphasized only people with severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should visit emergency departments, which have been inundated by 15 times the expected level of flu-related visits for this time of year.
However, flu-related emergency department visits declined last week from their peak on May 25.