Nearly half of all adults nationwide who have been hospitalized for flu this season are obese, USA Today reported.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 46 percent of U.S. adults hospitalized for influenza since January 4 were obese – a number that is unusually high for flu season, experts said.
Typically, the percentage of obese patients hospitalized for flu is around 20 to 30 percent, health experts claimed.
"I think we're seeing the same sort of pattern emerge we saw in 2009," Joseph Bresee, a CDC influenza expert, told USA Today. The majority of flu cases this season have been caused by the H1N1 strain, which caused a global pandemic during the 2009 – 2010 flu season.
Researchers aren’t sure why obese patients appear more heavily affected this season compared to previous years, but Bresee said the trend could be linked to immunological effects. Being overweight or obese is associated with a less efficient immune system, as well as respiratory issues.
Pregnant women are also being hospitalized more than usual this season. So far, 22 percent of pregnant patients have been hospitalized, as opposed to the typical average of 4.6 percent, Bresee said.