H1N1 virus takes toll on minorities

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, higher rates of hospitalization from the H1N1 virus have been reported among minority populations in Chicago. Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, higher rates of hospitalization from the H1N1 virus have been reported among minority populations in Chicago. Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com.

The news: According to an August report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a fall resurgence of the H1N1 virus could “cause between 30,000 and 90,000 deaths in the U.S., concentrated among children and young adults.”

Behind the news: More than half of 36 children who died from the H1N1 virus between May and July were from racial or ethnic minority groups, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A September study by the CDC found that 12 of the 36 children were Hispanic, while six were black and three were Asian. Thirteen of the children had received the seasonal flu vaccine, and 11 had “high-risk” medical conditions. And 19 had received antiviral treatment.

Between April 24 and July 25, 1,557 cases of the virus were reported in Chicago, and 205 of the cases led to hospitalization, according to an August CDC report. Among Hispanics, African Americans and Asians, higher rates of hospitalization from the virus were reported.

Dr. Julie Morita, medical director of the immunization program at the Chicago Department of Public Health and co-author of the August report, cautioned that the data are still preliminary. “I do feel like it’s premature to make any interpretation of that data,” she said.

But Dr. Jorge Parada, associate professor of medicine at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine, said the disparity in the numbers might be from the lack of access to health care among minority groups. “It is hypothetically possible that there is some genetic predisposition, but right now it’s that they’re not getting care. Either way, it’s not good news,” said Parada, who is medical director of the infection control program at Loyola.

Mark Dworkin, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said that as of yet he didn’t see any reason to believe minority children–”Latino, in particular–” were at a higher risk of H1N1 infection. “However, if they don’t have good access to the vaccine, they will be at higher risk,” Dworkin said.

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