Swine flu was four times more likely to send blacks and Hispanics to the hospital than whites, according to a study in Chicago that offers one of the first looks at how the virus has affected different racial groups.
The report echoes some unpublished information from Boston that found three out of four Bostonians hospitalized from swine flu were black or Hispanic.
The cause for the difference is probably not genetic, health officials said. More likely, it’s because blacks and Hispanics suffer disproportionately from asthma, diabetes and other health problems that make people more vulnerable to the flu.
It’s not clear if a racial or ethnic difference will hold up when more complete national data is available, one federal health official said. The findings are based on fairly small numbers of cases from the early days of the pandemic.
The Chicago findings, released Thursday, are believed to be the first published study to detail a racial or ethnic breakdown of swine flu’s impact.
Blacks with swine flu were hospitalized at a rate of 9 per 100,000, and Hispanics at a rate of 8 per 100,000. For whites, the rate was 2 per 100,000, the study found.
“But intuitively it’s understandable, because we have tremendous inequities in most areas of health,” said Ferrer [Barbara Ferrer of the Boston Public Health Commission], the agency’s executive director.
This fall, the government will be doing national surveys to better track swine flu trends. That should provide more reliable information about how the virus is affecting different groups of people, he said.
[Editors Note: Jared Taylor’s Special to AR News, “Swine Flu: Is There a Racial Link?” can be read here.]