H1N1 Also a Danger to Older Patients

Brenda Lau, 62, who almost died from the H1N1 virus.
Brenda Lau, 62, doesn't fit the typical profile of somebody with H1N1. But she almost died from it, reports CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook.

"It's a miracle for me," Lau said.

A new study finds while H1N1 mostly strikes younger patients, older ones are not immune.

"Once they become infected with H1N1, older patients may be at greater risk of developing severe respiratory disease and even death," said Dr. Lory David Wiviott, an infectious disease expert and associate medical director of the California Pacific Medical Center.

Special Report: H1N1 Virus

Researchers looked at more than 1,000 people hospitalized with H1N1 in California. About a quarter were aged 50 and over. The older group had the highest mortality - almost 20 percent died.

Around the country, doctors like Wiviott are seeing H1N1 kill older patients like Danna Fortune, a 53-year-old nurse in Indiana. And 51-year-old Gail Stapelton, an English teacher from Phoenix.

Meanwhile, only 32 million doses of H1N1 vaccine are now available. Despite the new concern for older Americans, the CDC does not recommend moving them to the head of the line.

"It doesn't change what our recommendations would be for vaccination," said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. "Still overwhelmingly the number of people affected by H1N1influenza are under the age of 65."

Two thirds of hospitalized patients had underlying medical problems, and researchers identified a new risk factor not previously associated with influenza complications: obesity.