H1N1 Flu Poses Unique Risks for Patients With Diabetes

November 14, 2009

Both seasonal and H1N1 influenza pose a greater risk of severe illness and complications in patients with diabetes-and these infections can also wreak havoc with blood glucose levels.

Both H1N1 and seasonal influenza pose a greater risk of severe illness and complications in patients with diabetes. Moreover, these infections can wreak havoc with blood glucose levels.

About 12% of all persons and 19% of all adults hospitalized because of H1N1 influenza have had diabetes. One in four hospitalized patients with diabetes required intensive care unit management, said Anne Schuchat, MD, Director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, at a recent press conference.

The CDC recommends that all persons with diabetes aged 6 months through 64 years receive the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine, and all those who are 6 months or older, including all persons aged 65 and older, should receive the seasonal influenza vaccine. The intranasal live attenuated vaccine is not recommended for persons with diabetes.

Persons with diabetes who have fever and cough or other influenza-like symptoms need to contact their health care provider, said Dr Schuchat. Those with suspected or confirmed 2009 H1N1 infection should be treated promptly with antiviral drugs (oseltamivir [Tamiflu] or zanamivir [Relenza]). “It’s not necessary to wait for influenza test results to come back,” she said. “It’s just important to start antiviral therapy promptly.”

Dr Schuchat also emphasized that patients with diabetes need to be vaccinated against pneumococcal infection. “Many with diabetes and other chronic conditions have not received the pneumococcal vaccine. As with seasonal influenza, we have seen pneumococcal pneumonia following H1N1 influenza.”