Too Much Silence About Swine Flu’ Impact on Blacks, Latinos

Too Much Silence About Swine Flu’ Impact on Blacks, Latinos

Published October 7, 2009

The missing conversation amid all the ado about the deadly effects of the swine flu is the devastating impact it is having on Latino and African-American populations, says Juan Gonzalez of The New York Daily News.

Despite numerous briefings about the notorious H1N1 virus, city and federal health officials have been “virtually silent about” the way the pandemic is ripping through minority communities, says Gonzalez, a columnist and regular commentator on the radio program “Democracy Now.”

In an analysis last month of the first swine flu-related deaths among U.S. children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that one in three were among Latinos. In all, Gonzalez reports, half of the H1N1 child deaths between April and August were among African-Americans and Latinos – far greater than their representation in the overall population.

“Since then, the total number of pediatric fatalities has reached 60, but the CDC has not issued any further ethnic and racial breakdowns on the impact of the disease,” Gonzalez writes. Asked about that yesterday, an agency spokesman said a new report will be ready before the end of the week.”

Gonzalez says, “By themselves, the childhood deaths might not seem sufficient in number to raise alarm bells. But several recent studies from local health departments around the country suggest a broader trend is already underway in minority communities.”

He points to a finding by Boston's Public Health Commission that 37 percent of all swine flu cases in that city occurred among Blacks, even though the Black population is only 25 percent. And Hispanics, who make up only 14 percent of Boston residents, account for about 33 percent of all confirmed H1N1 cases. “Even more disturbing, three of every four people hospitalized for the virus in Boston have been Black or Hispanic,” he writes.

In Chicago, he says, the Department of Public Health studied 1,500 lab-confirmed swine flu cases between late April and late July and found Blacks and Hispanics were four times more likely to be hospitalized than Whites. And in Oklahoma, African-American children in the state were being hospitalized for swine flu at three times the rate of White children and twice the rate of Native American children.

Written by Ed Wiley III


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