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Content on this page was developed during the 2009-2010 H1N1 pandemic and has not been updated.

  • The H1N1 virus that caused that pandemic is now a regular human flu virus and continues to circulate seasonally worldwide.
  • The English language content on this website is being archived for historic and reference purposes only.
  • For current, updated information on seasonal flu, including information about H1N1, see the CDC Seasonal Flu website.

Questions & Answers

In the News: Deaths related to 2009 H1N1 & American Indians and Alaskan Natives

December 11, 2009 9:00 AM ET

Are American Indians and Alaskan Natives more likely to die from 2009 H1N1 than the general population?

A recent investigation found that American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) are 4 times more likely to die from 2009 H1N1 than the general population.  

The study investigated the influenza-related deaths between April 15 and November 13, 2009 occurring in the 12 states which represent 50% of the AI/AN population in the United States.  About 10% of deaths occurred among AI/AN, although they make up only about 3% of the population in the 12 states.

Why are American Indians and Alaskan Natives at increased risk of dying from 2009 H1N1?

There is no epidemiological or clinical evidence to suggest people’s racial or ethnic group alone makes them more susceptible to influenza infection, illness or death.   There are several possible explanations for the disparity which puts AI/AN at increased risk from the flu, including higher rates of underlying chronic illnesses like asthma and diabetes, poverty, delayed access to health care and low vaccination coverage.  CDC continues to investigate factors contributing to increased influenza-associated hospitalizations and mortality among racial and ethnic minorities, including AI/AN.

What is being done to reduce the burden of mortality on AI/AN?

Along with continued investigation, CDC is increasing awareness among AI/AN and their health-care providers about H1N1 influenza. Health professionals and agencies, especially those serving AI/AN,  should expand community education regarding the risk for influenza complications and mortality, use influenza antiviral medication early for those at increased risk for H1N1 influenza complications, and promote vaccination against 2009 H1N1 and seasonal influenza.

What Can American Indians and Alaska Natives and other Minority Groups do to protect themselves From Severe flu Complications?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu and its complications.  People at high risk for influenza complications and death to should vaccinated against 2009 H1N1 influenza as well as seasonal influenza.  American Indians and Alaska Natives should also receive prompt treatment with antiviral medication if they do develop influenza-like illnesses. 

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