The demographic characteristics of pandemic influenza decedents among middle and low-income tropical countries are poorly understood. We explored the demographics of persons who died with influenza A (H1N1)pdm09 infection during 2009–2010, in seven countries in the American tropics.
We used hospital-based surveillance to identify laboratory-confirmed influenza deaths in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Dominican Republic. An influenza death was defined as a person who died within two weeks of a severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) defined as sudden onset of fever >38 °C, cough or sore-throat, and shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing requiring hospitalization, and who tested positive for influenza A (H1N1)pdm09 virus by real time polymerase chain reaction. We abstracted the demographic and clinical characteristics of the deceased from their medical records.
During May 2009-June 2010, we identified 183 influenza deaths. Their median age was 32 years (IQR 18–46 years). One-hundred and one (55 %) were female of which 20 (20 %) were pregnant and 7 (7 %) were in postpartum. One-hundred and twelve decedents (61 %) had pre-existing medical conditions, (15 % had obesity, 13 % diabetes, 11 % asthma, 8 % metabolic disorders, 5 % chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 10 % neurological disorders). 65 % received oseltamivir but only 5 % received it within 48 h of symptoms onset.
The pandemic killed young adults, pregnant women and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Most sought care too late to fully benefit from oseltamivir. We recommend countries review antiviral treatment policies for people at high risk of developing complications.||