…That’s what I would be saying, from actual sources instead of the mainstream news, if I believed that a sample size of 30 was likely to give statistically significant results.
Anne Schuchat, M.D., interim deputy director for the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control) Science and Public Health Program, is on it. AAFP quotes her as saying:
“We were surprised by the frequency of obesity among the severe cases that we’ve been tracking. I do think it’s an important result. The question of whether people with obesity need to be treated differently in terms of anti-viral treatment or seasonal flu vaccinations is one we’re looking into.”
Isn’t that a nice little ambiguity? Did she mean that she thinks obesity is protective, or a risk factor? In what way does she think should the medical profession be looking to treat obese people differently?
Forward to the CDC Telebriefing on Investigation of Human Cases of H1N1 Flu:
“If there truly is an increased risk of severe complications on obese patients, it would be important to take steps to attend to that. One unfortunate statistic right now is that the U.S. is experiencing an epidemic of obesity. We had much higher rates of obesity in the U.S. than we had 10 or 20 years ago. Both in children and adults. So it?s hard for us to say at this point to say whether the number of patients with reported obesity is significantly higher than we would expect. It was a bit surprising on first glimpse. A lot of theorys people are entertaining now. Some people with morbid obesity have a syndrome where they have fairly severe respiratory compromised just based on the extra weight they?re carrying on their chest.”
OK, so Schuchat thinks The Fatties get the flu bad, real bad, because fat lungs don’t work properly, because they’re surrounded by evil suffocating chest fat.
Let’s look at the figures, shall we? According to CDC data, the population of California has an obesity prevalence of 22.6%. So what’s the frequency of obesity among severe, hospitalised H1N1 flu cases in California? 30%? 50%?
Schuchat was commenting on this Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), Hospitalized Patients with Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Virus Infection — California, April–May, 2009. This MMWR looked at the characteristics of 30 people hospitalised for severe H1N1 flu infection.
How many of the severely ill were obese? 4. FOUR.
That’s 13%. That’s 41% LOWER than expected, if people were sickening randomly with severe swine flu.
So, I ask, CDC: What the fuck?
And, science media, how about reading sources yourself? I found this with a two-minute Google search. But each and every one of you has decided that Teh Fat Causes Swine Flu. This is primary-school mathematics FAIL, folks.
Update 19 June 2009: CBC.ca reports one more datapoint, in “Risk factors for severe swine flu may explain disease’s enigmas: experts”
Four of the 23 New Yorkers who died were obese.
That’s 17%. Obesity prevalence in New York is 25%. The journalist goes on:
Still, Harper says it’s too soon to say whether that’s a risk factor in and of itself; the U.S. national obesity rate is about 25 per cent, or roughly six out of every 23 people. It may be that some of the things that go hand-in-hand with obesity — like early heart disease or diabetes — are the real risk factors.