Swine Flu, Diabetes and Minorities

Swine Flu, Diabetes and Minorities: African American’s and Latinos may have more to fear from the H1N1 (Swine) flu than other ethnicities. Recent reports from Boston and Chicago indicate the majority of cases in those cities are among these two ethnic groups.

One of the causes cited is the tendency among these groups to have chronic health conditions like diabetes and asthma. When chronic illnesses are present there is a greater risk of suppressed immunity. In other words this scenario may make them more susceptible to contracting additional diseases – in this case swine flu.

A recent NPR report suggests, “Young people are more at risk of getting swine flu, and pregnant women, among others, have a higher chance of hospitalization from the new flu. Now public health officials are discovering that blacks and Latinos have a substantially higher risk of both.”

This report further suggests that it may be a combination of current health issues and ‘social circumstances’ that contribute to this alarming trend.


Researchers are making a vaccine for the H1N1 virus available, but it requires two separate inoculations for full effect. The struggle many African Americans and Latinos have is that it can be difficult to manage time for two separate doctor visits for the best protection from this flu strain. In many cases if a first injection is received a follow up injection may never happen.

The NPR report demonstrates the growing difference in Boston, “Blacks make up one-quarter of the city’s population, but they were 37 percent of the swine flu cases. Latinos are 14 percent of the population, but more than one-third of those with confirmed cases of the new H1N1 virus this spring and summer were Latino.”

In Boston the H1N1 virus seems to be hitting the black community the hardest. Many of the cases involving African Americans required hospitalization. A secondary marker for hospitalized cases was the addition of asthma among patients.

It is anticipated that health care providers will need to convince patients to come in for three separate visits. The first would be for the annual flu vaccine. This would be followed up by two visits when the swine flu vaccine becomes available in all areas of the country.

Dr. Steve Tringale of Codman Square Health Center in Boston told NPR, “[It’s] always a challenge, to come back a second time for full protection. Taking the time off work or getting babysitters or whatever it takes is always going to be an effort for patients.”

Boston is just one community urging business owners to allow their employees to take time off work to get the needed vaccinations.

For diabetics in general it is important to note that asthmatic conditions are common among diabetics. The risks involved in contracting flu strains are always troubling for those with diabetes, but especially so with the H1N1 virus. It is considered vital that those with diabetes take advantage of swine flu vaccinations when they become available. There was a time when the emphasis was only on the very young, those who were pregnant and senior citizens. This has been expanded to those with chronic illnesses. H1N1 has claimed lives and has also sent many to the hospital for an extended stay. Taking the time needed to protect yourself from this debilitating strain is not only advisable it could save your life.