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H1N1 in This Week's News

December 11, 2009
pill in pop out dispenserAccording to the results from a multidisciplinary workgroup study, American Indian and Alaskan Native populations experienced disproportionate rates of death and hospitalization due to H1N1.

The study, released in a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) this week,  found these populations within 12 states had a rate of death and hospitalization four times higher than rates among all other ethnic and racial populations combined. The prevalence of underlying medical conditions is also higher among this group.

From The Washington Post:

The cause of this difference in mortality is not known. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters that the findings are more likely "a reflection of environmental factors and underlying conditions . . . [and] access to health care rather than genetics or ethnicity."

In November, the New York Times published an opinion piece looking at how and why underlying conditions may affect the impact of H1N1:

Epidemiologists also found unexpected correlations between severe H1N1 flu and problems like obesity, hypertension and increased blood lipids. In Australia and New Zealand, aboriginal and Maori peoples were disproportionately stricken — as were Native American and Inuit populations in Canada. These associations had not been prominent in past flu outbreaks.

The related MMWR, Intensive-Care Patients with Severe Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Virus Infection – Michigan, June 2009,  is available on the CDC Web site.

In other news this week, a study released by the British Medical Journal questions the data proving the effectiveness influenza antiviral medication oseltamivir (Tamiflu®).

According to CDC statements, when used to prevent the flu, antiviral drugs are about 70–90 percent effective against susceptible viruses (that are not resistant to the antiviral medication). These medicines may be most beneficial to those who experience acute symptoms and are hospitalized, as well as members of the high-risk groups such as pregnant women.

The CDC stresses that antiviral drugs should not in any way replace or substitute vaccination—“the first and most important step in protecting against the flu.”

Additional resources on antiviral treatments are available on the CDC Web site. On Dec. 7, the CDC released updated interim recommendations for the use of antiviral medications in the treatment and prevention of influenza. The guidance includes information on antiviral treatment for patients with severe influenza-like illness, as well as for those with underlying medical conditions.

For the latest H1N1 news, please visit NACCHO’s H1N1 News Web page.


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