A little over a year ago I wrote a blog entitled PAMP and Circumstance which looked at a Yale study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, suggesting why cigarette smokers are more apt to suffer greater ill effects, or even die, from viral respiratory infections.
Min-Jong Kang1, Chun Geun Lee1, Jae-Young Lee1, Charles S. Dela Cruz1, Zhijian J. Chen2, Richard Enelow1 and Jack A. Elias1,3
. . . was conducted on mice, since it wouldn't be ethical to infect humans with potentially lethal viruses.
The H1N1 swine flu virus operates under no such ethical limitations, and so doctors around the world are getting a first hand look at how the virus acts in various groups of people, including smokers.
First this article by Jason Gale of Bloomberg News, where doctors in Hong Kong are seeing a much higher incidence of smokers suffering severe pneumonia from the H1N1 virus, and then a little discussion.
A hat tip to GennieF on Flutrackers for this link.
By Jason Gale
Aug. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Smokers may be prone to developing life-threatening complications from swine flu, according to patient data from Hong Kong, where tobacco use was noted in almost half of severe cases.
Twelve of 27 swine flu patients who developed pneumonia and other serious illnesses were either current or former smokers and some had no other known risk factors, Thomas Tsang, acting controller of Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection, told a medical meeting in Beijing yesterday.
“The proportion of smokers among the serious cases is pretty high,” Tsang said in an interview. “So far this is just one observation that stands out and we need to investigate it.”
Tsang’s findings may shed more light on a mystery that doctors are grappling with: why the new flu remains mild for a majority of people and is severe enough to kill in others. Worldwide, about 1,800 people infected with H1N1 have died since the virus was discovered in April.
In Hong Kong, about 1 in 200 people who tested positive for swine flu developed severe disease, with some needing weeks of intensive-care treatment. About 13 percent of adults in the city smoke, Tsang said at a meeting on influenza over the weekend organized by the Lancet medical journal, China’s health ministry and the World Health Organization.
Smoking in the United States has been on the decline for years, with now only about 20% of adults stating that they are smokers. When I was a kid growing up, everybody smoked.
Actors smoked in the movies, talk show hosts smoked as they interviewed their guests, people smoked in movie theatres, and even some schools set aside smoking areas for students!
Smokers are now, as they say . . . a dying breed. As an ex-smoker, I’m allowed the macabre reference.
While the percentage of adult smokers in the US has been cut in half in the past 20 years (down from about 42% to just over 20%), smoking in developing countries around the world is on the rise.
It would appear - if this smoking-pneumonia connection holds true – that the countries least able to provide care to those with severe pneumonia are likely to see a higher incidence of that complication due to their high tobacco consumption.
Another factor that may cause this H1N1 pandemic to have greater impact on some societies than it does others as it wends its way around the world.