Pulmonary embolism can be an after-effect of H1N1

To date, 43 states have reported a widespread outbreak of H1N1.

Catching it can mean anything from a few days in bed to a few weeks in the ICU. For some, there can be long-term effects.

Just to get back behind the drums is quite a feat for Rudy Starr.

“I still get tired really easily,” he says.

This church drummer boy was silenced for three weeks, laying in an induced coma caused by the H1N1 virus.

“I had to learn how to walk. I tried to get out of bed, and they say, 'no, you can't,' and sure enough, there's no strength there,” says Rudy.

Rudy was one of the first to be tested for a severe after-effect of the flu.

“One interesting thing we found was a high incidence of PE, or pulmonary embolism,” says Dr. Prachi Agarwal, cardiothoracic radiologist at the University of Michigan.

University of Michigan researchers found that patients who suffered from a severe case of H1N1 one are at a high risk for serious lung complications.

CT scans revealed a third of H1N1 patients in the ICU had a pulmonary embolism.

It happens when one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked. PE can be treated with blood thinners, but if it's not caught, it can be deadly.

“One side effect from being sick is that my heart got a little out of whack. They say with my lungs as bad as they were, it could take up to a year to fully recover,” says Rudy.

Rudy was one of the lucky ones. He's recovering, and seven months after getting H1N1, he's almost back to 100 percent.

“I feel energized anytime I get behind the drums. I can't imagine doing anything else. It's been my whole life,” he says.

Now, Rudy's ready to rock on.

Researchers at the University of Michigan hope to get the word out to other hospitals to make sure they consider PE as a possible complication of severe H1N1.

Symptoms include difficulty breathing, chest pain and palpitations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the H1N1 virus, which is sometimes called "swine flu," was first detected in people in the United States in April, 2009. Currently, the virus is spreading from person to person worldwide. Symptoms of the H1N1 virus include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also experience vomiting and diarrhea. Others may only have respiratory symptoms without a fever. Severe illnesses and deaths have occurred as a result of this virus.
PROTECT YOURSELF: There are several precautions you can take to protect yourself from the H1N1 virus. According to the CDC, you should employ the following behaviors:
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth to reduce the spread of germs.
Avoid close contact with sick people.
If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distance measures.
COMPLICATIONS: Some complications of the H1N1 virus include pneumonia, bronchitis, or sinus and ear infections. The flu may also cause certain conditions -- like asthma and congestive heart failure -- to worsen. Certain people are more likely to experience complications. Pregnant women, children younger than 5 years of age, and those with chronic health problems are at a higher risk.
ANOTHER DANGER: Researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor have found another serious complication of the H1N1 virus. They report that those who suffer a severe case of the flu are at high risk for having a pulmonary embolism (PE). This happens when one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked. If it's not caught in time, PE can be deadly. Symptoms of PE include difficulty breathing, chest pain and palpitations. These researchers hope to spread the word to other clinicians about this possible risk.
For More Information, Contact:
Mary Masson
Media Relations
University of Michigan Health System
Ann Arbor, MI

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