Many observers have noted that native peoples in several countries appear to be dying at a greater rate than the majority populations in those countries. Why is this?
One variable commonly suggested to be responsible for this preferential susceptibility is genetics. Does this stand up to scrutiny? First Nations people in Canada likely have some genetic similarities with people of Mexican ancestry, but neither has any significant similarity to the Aborigines of Australia. Yet, all three groups appear to have higher rates of death than people of European ancestry.
So, what do each of these groups have in common?
- Lower socioeconomic status, which may translate into decreased access to medical care.
- Large families.
To distinguish between these two possibilities, one would like to identify a group with large families but relatively high socioeconomic status. In the United States, there is such a group: members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). In the State of Utah, where most Mormons live, family size is much larger than in other areas of the United States.
And Utah has the highest incidence of death from pandemic flu among the US States after Hawaii.
Why would large families lead to a higher death rate due to pandemic flu?
Children are spreaders. The more children in your environment, the more likely you will be exposed to the virus. Since adults die at a much higher rate than children, more adults being exposed to pandemic flu will result in a higher incidence of death.
The above is speculative, but does explain the available data. If true, then I would predict that a fine-grained analysis of where the deaths are occurring would reveal that adults that are exposed to lots of school aged children are more likely to die of pandemic flu, at least at this point in the pandemic.