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Swine Flu May Cause Baldness

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Here's a reason to get your flu shot that you probably haven't considered: infection with H1N1 may trigger baldness in a small number of people.

 

A new report from Japan suggests a link between alopecia areata, a condition in which patches of hair fall out, and swine flu (H1N1). The researchers report that seven patients experienced hair loss one to four months after developing the illness.

 

The exact cause of alopecia areata is unknown, but it is thought to occur when the immune system attacks a person's hair follicles, causing the hair on their head to fall out. Rarely, patients may lose all the hair on their head, or on other parts of their body. While the condition may have a hereditary component, a "trigger" from the environment, such as a traumatic event or illness, may also be needed to set off the disease.

 

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Previous studies have linked viral illnesses, including infections with the Epstein-Barr virus, and onset of alopecia areata. The new findings suggest flu infection may be another trigger of this form of baldness, said study researcher Dr. Taisuke Ito, an assistant professor of dermatology at Hamamatsu University School of Medicine in Japan.

 

Between 2009 and 2010, the researchers examined seven patients with hair loss following swine flu infections that caused high fever. Four of the cases were recurrences of the condition, and three were first-time occurrences. On average, hair loss occurred 1.5 months after swine flu infection in those who experienced recurrences, and 2.7 months after swine flu infection in those who experienced first-time hair loss.

 

All of the patients were under 30 years old, and four were under 10. Three of the cases involved females.

 

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