Obesity epidemic could be spreading flu

Patients with obesity shed influenza A for longer than those with lower BMI

Obesity may be contributing to the spread of influenza in the community, a study suggests. 

influenza spread obesity

US researchers say not only does obesity increase an individual’s risk from severe complications from flu, but adults with obesity shed the influenza A virus for 42% longer than adults with lower BMI. 

“This is the first real evidence that obesity might impact more than just disease severity,” the researchers write. 

They analysed data from about 1800 people living in 320 household in  Managua, Nicargua over three flu seasons, finding those with obesity shed the influenza A virus for longer, but there was no association with influenza B virus.

Predicted mean shedding times were 5.23 days for those with obesity, versus 3.68 days in those without.

Researchers took nose and throat samples, and tested them for flu virus RNA, but the samples did not give information about whether the viruses were still contagious. 

Also, people with obesity who had only mild influenza symptoms took longer to recover, and also took 104% longer to shed the virus, compared with people who were non-obese.

"Obesity may play an important role in influenza transmission, especially as the prevalence of obesity rises, and may be an important target for intervention and prevention strategies," the researchers write.

"Further, these results add to existing evidence linking obesity to infectious diseases, making it now even more important to work toward controlling and preventing the obesity epidemic."

Read the full study here