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American Indians, Alaska natives more likely to die from swine flu

By David Liu

American Indian and Alaska Natives are at higher risk of dying from swine flu compared to other populations, according to a new study released in December by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The finding suggests that inoculation of swine flu vaccine should be expanded among these high-risk populations.  It has been known early that pregnant women, children, and people with chronic diseases and compromised immunity are at higher risk.

The CDC along with a handful of other health agencies in October observed a disproportionate number of deaths related to swine flu or now commonly known as H1N1 flu among American Indians and Alaska Natives in Arizona and New Mexico.

Early studies in Australian, Canada and New Zealand showed that indigenous populations have a three to eight times higher rate of hospitalization and death related to the so called 20009 pandemic influenza A (swine flu) virus.

Data on the H1N1 mortality collected from 12 states during April 15 to November 13, 2009 showed that the swine flu mortality rate among American Indians and Alaska Natives was four times higher than that for all other racial/ethnic populations combined.

The researchers speculated that the increased risk for swine flu death is probably due to the high prevalence of chronic health conditions including diabetes and asthma among the indigenous populations although what caused this disparity in H1N1 death rates basically remained unknown.

The authors called for increased awareness among American Indians and Alaska Natives and their health care providers of the higher risk of swine flu and current recommendations on the timely use of H1N1 flu vaccine.

For these populations, use of swine flu vaccine needs to be expanded, the authors said.

The study was reported in the December 11, 2009 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In the United States, thousands of people have reportedly died from swine flu.  Many of the victims had chronic health conditions, which is why the CDC recommends that certain groups of people like those with diabetes should receive the swine flu vaccine.

The CDC says swine flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu. But some observational evidence indicates that H1N1 flu vaccine may not be the only option.

The observations by two physicians, one in Wisconsin and the other in George reported independently to Dr. John Cannell, director of Vitamin D Council, that taking high doses of vitamin D can be highly effective in preventing swine flu.