Rates of influenza (“flu”) infection have been low during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with winter nearing in the United States, there are concerns that fewer people will have their annual flu vaccination shot. Flu remains a very serious illness, including for people with all forms of diabetes.
Severe flu is more common among minorities
A new study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States looked at racial and ethnic disparities in severe flu-related outcomes. Researchers studied 10 flu seasons from 2009 through 2019. The study looked at three categories of severe flu outcomes by race and ethnicity: rates of flu-related hospitalization, admission to the intensive care unit (ICU), and in-hospital death. The study found that rates of all 3 of these severe flu-related outcomes were higher for racial and ethnic minority groups when compared to non-Hispanic White people.
Hispanic/Latinos at greater risk from severe flu
Overall, Black people had the highest flu-related hospitalization rates across all 10 seasons. This was followed by American Indian or Alaska Native people and Hispanic/Latinos. There was a similar trend for ICU admission rates. The disparities were greatest in the youngest age groups, with rates of severe outcomes being up to 4 times higher among racial and ethnic minority children ages 0-4 years compared with non-Hispanic White children. Among Black children, rates were 2.2 – 3.4 times higher for all 3 severe flu-related outcomes. For Hispanic children, rates were also up to 3 times higher for all 3 severe flu-related outcomes.
An earlier study showed that Hispanic/Latinos were more likely than White people to be exposed to flu viruses because of their jobs, or because of crowded living conditions that often involved living with extended family. More research is needed to understand why these communities are disproportionately impacted by flu-related outcomes. Research may also encourage people to have their flu vaccine.