October 23, 2016
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New Study Reveals National And Oregon Flu Data About Native Americans


Influenza update 

Native Americans in Oregon haven't been hit as hard by the flu as indigenous people in other states. A study of 12 states, including Oregon, showed Native Americans died from flu at a much higher rate than the general population during the 2009 H1N1 season.

Last week, on Jan. 27, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) included a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report of deaths related to 2009 pandemic H1N1 among American Indian/Alaska Natives in 12 states between April 15 and Nov. 13, 2009.

“Nationally, it appears the rate of death from pandemic H1N1 among American Indians and Alaska Natives was four times higher than it was for the general population,” says Richard Leman, MD, epidemiologist for Oregon Public Health, who contributed to the report.

Leman says it’s not clear exactly why the death rate is higher for indigenous people, but it may be linked to higher rates of underlying health conditions such as diabetes, or healthcare access issues that may have delayed prompt medical care.

“Fortunately, we haven’t seen this disparity in Oregon, but we’re looking at the national information and taking it very seriously,” Leman says. Only one Native American has died from pandemic H1N1 flu in Oregon since Sept. 1, 2009: a woman who had multiple underlying health problems.

Leman credits tribes and local health departments for their work to make vaccine available to Oregon’s native populations. On the Warm Springs reservation, tribal health staff went to the homes of people at increased risk of severe complications from flu to encourage them to get vaccinated. Through this “Knock and Talk” program, they helped many people protect themselves from the infection. Tribes based in Oregon also worked with Oregon Public Health to secure supplies of vaccine and antiviral medication so that tribal members could be protected from H1N1 infection.

Though flu activity in Oregon has declined in recent weeks, public health officials warn that another spike could happen. Since Sept. 1, 2009, 1,307 people have been hospitalized with the flu, and 66 people have died.

Vaccination is the first and most important step in protecting yourself and those around you from the flu. The pandemic H1N1 vaccine is now widely available in convenient locations such as chain grocery stores and pharmacies.

For more information or to find the vaccine locally, visit or call the Oregon Public Health Flu Hotline (1-800-978-3040). The hotline has discontinued its nurse triage line, but operators continue to offer valuable information — including assistance in finding vaccine — from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. For the latest news, connect with us at: and .



Contact: Alissa Bateman-Robbins; desk, 971-673-2296; cell, 503-490-6590;



STORY TAGS: study, native, american, indian, indian american, native american, tribe, tribes, tribal, flu, data, health, healthcare, illness, sickness, disease, treatment, influenza, Journal of the American Medical Association, cdc, center, disease, control, h1n1, black radio network, info, information, minority news, minority health, risk,

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