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Native Americans Four Times More Vulnerable to H1N1 Death, Says CDC

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, December 16, 2009

Hospitalizations and deaths from the H1N1 virus this year are much higher among Native Americans and Alaska Natives than other racial or ethnic groups, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in cooperation with a 12-state investigation project.

"During (the period between) April 15 and Nov. 13, American Indian and Alaska Natives in the 12 participating states had an H1N1 mortality rate four times higher," the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5848a1.htm) last week.

Reasons for this disparity in death rates are unknown, but CDC suggested it could be because of a higher prevalence of chronic health conditions in those populations, which make them predisposed to influenza complications, as well as poverty and delayed access to care.

CDC suggested increased awareness of these patient populations and their healthcare providers to educate about the "potential severity of influenza and current recommendations regarding the timely use of antiviral medications."

The 12 states highlighted are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Michigan, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, which are regions of the country where 50% of the U.S. Native American and Alaska Native populations reside.

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