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American Indians Have Far Higher H1N1 Flu Death Rate

Compared to all other races American Indian/Alaska Natives at four-fold greater risk

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- The pandemic influenza A (H1N1) mortality rate among American Indians and Alaska Natives is four times that of all other racial/ethnic groups combined, according to a study in the Dec. 11 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Louisa J. Castrodale, of the Alaska Division of Public Health in Anchorage, and colleagues note that a higher rate of hospitalization among indigenous populations was seen in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and also in the U.S. states of Arizona and New Mexico, leading to a 12-state-wide working group being set up to monitor the disease burden among American Indian/Alaska Natives.

From April to November this year, members of these ethnic groups had a mortality rate four times higher than other racial/ethnic groups, but the reasons behind the disparity were unclear, the researchers note. Possible reasons include the high prevalence of diabetes and asthma among American Indians/Alaska Natives, poor living conditions and delayed access to care.

"Efforts are needed to increase awareness among American Indians/Alaska Natives and their health care providers of the potential severity of influenza and current recommendations regarding the timely use of antiviral medications," the authors write. "Efforts to promote the use of 2009 H1N1 influenza monovalent vaccine in American Indians/Alaska Native populations should be expanded."

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