Flu Attacks Those of Asian (and Amerindian) Ancestry Worse

Intresting post to Flu Wiki that confirms a piece I quoted last week that deaths in Canada have been more prevalent in those of First Nation ancestry:

The Mongolian Spot and Susceptibility to A/(novel)H1N1 Swine Flu
by: The Doctor
Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 22:29:52 PM EDTmongolian-blue-spots

The outbreak of pandemic influenza began in the early months of 2009. It became apparent first in Mexico and spread north, south, east and west and is now worldwide. Today the virus has infected millions of people but causes relatively few deaths. Since this virus is a novel strain of influenza that has not been encountered previously by humankind, its spread throughout the world is not a surprise. What is of interest is the morbidity and mortality associated with this virus has been very uneven.

It is possible now to see that the majority of the severe illness and death within North America has been confined primarily to persons of Asian decent; specifically those whose ancestors once lived upon the Asian steps primarily in the area that includes modern day Mongolia.

Who are the descendants of these peoples? They are those who live today in China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, all the ingenious peoples of North and South America, those living in the Caucasian Stans and the Balkans, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Polynesia, some people living in France and Germany, and very interestingly the peoples of east Africa living in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea.

What many but not all of those who have suffered the most from this viral strain in North America have in common is genetic ancestry. A marker of this common ancestry is what has been called the Mongolian Spot. The spot is seen only in infancy and is located on the upper buttocks in the midline. The spot is dark blue in color and fades as the child ages; disappearing in three to five years. The spot is due to a collection of pigment containing melanocytes and is not a birthmark since it does not persist.

As Dr. Chan said in her statement today announcing the WHO’s decision to declare an influenza pandemic, “we are in the first stage” of this event.

What have we learned so far from this first stage? The observation that is most striking to me is the variation in morbidity and mortality seen within North America. Specifically, those living in Mexico were especially hard hit while many in the US and Canada has become ill but relatively few have died.

Why? What explains the difference in morbidity and mortality seen in North America?

One thing that connects the majority of those who were severely ill and died in Mexico, the US, and Canada is their ancestry. All are related to those who originally lived upon the Asian steps. A characteristic and in fact universal indicator of this genetic tie is the presence of the Mongolian Spot above their buttocks at birth. The vast majority of those who have died in North America since pandemic outbreak have been those who were born with the Mongolian Spot.

This is simply an observation and proof of nothing. However, it is a valid observation and does provide one possible link between the majorities of serious cases seen in North America.

What are the implications of this observation and why might it be of importance? Specifically, if this observation correctly identifies those at highest risk from A/(novel)H1N1 then it could be of great assistance to physicians caring for future victims of this virus. In other words, those with this genetic marker who develop an ILI would be provided with expedited care including the use of scarce anti-viral medications and antibiotics. Since those without this marker are at much lower risk for influenza morbidity and mortality and are those with this disease who have the “mild” cases of the pandemic strain, they could be treated much more conservatively.


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2 thoughts on “Flu Attacks Those of Asian (and Amerindian) Ancestry Worse”

  1. And from Australia:

    “…Australia‚Äôs Royal Flying Doctor Service is evacuating Aborigines hit by swine flu from remote northern communities as health officials warn the indigenous population is more vulnerable to the virus.

    With Aboriginal settlements often hundreds of kilometers along dirt roads from the nearest medical center, people with flu symptoms and suffering complications are being flown out for treatment, said Vicki Krause, director of the Centre for Disease Control in the Northern Territory…”

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