Why So Little H1N1 in AR, WV and VT?

The Natural State

While looking at some of the H1N1 flu data on the CDC website, I was struck by the fact that West Virginia had been completely spared, and that out of the 6,754 cases reported nationwide, Arkansas and Vermont had only 6 confirmed cases combined.

So what do the three states have in common that might account for this clean bill of health?  Not much on the surface.  I was thinking that both Vermont and Arkansas were given their names by Frenchmen.   But what about West Virginia?  No, no French connection there.   Vermont is named after a mountain.  Arkansas has the Ozark and the Ouachita mountain ranges; West Virgina the Appalachians.   Could it be the rarefied mountain air?  Or that the states are landlocked?

I have a theory, not entirely my own, that is a product of a little research and common sense.   First, what do the states with the most cases – Illinois, New York, Texas and California have in common?  They are densely populated. Mexico City fits this description too.  The virus can spread quickly when people are confined in close quarters on buses, subways, at school and work and in busy supermarkets and shopping centers.   Arkansas, West Virgina and Vermont are three of the least densely populated states in the country and there are simply fewer opportunities for exposure.  Makes sense?   Before you say duh, consider this:  these three states have something else in common – they have an aging population.  The median age of an Arkansas resident is 37, 40 for West Virgina and Vermont.   What does this have to do with anything?  The median age of the H1N1 victim is 15.   The theory here is that younger people do not yet have a fully functional immune system and will not have had the developmental benefit of exposure to many types of virus threats as have adults and the elderly.  California, Texas and Illinois, with the lion share of H1N1 victims, are three of the youngest states.  The median age of a Texas resident is 33.  Simply put, in these heavily and densely populated states, there are more high risk youth who will have much greater exposure rates to the virus than their counterparts in smaller, more sparsely populated states.

And there is another intangible that just came to mind.  The ArkBenJerry-UnitedSquare (Small)ansas mascot is the Razorback.   Arkansas hogs are treated with the utmost respect.  Go hogs! And in Vermont, they feed their pigs Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream.  It’s true.  Vermont pigs are a little bit spoiled and apparently don’t like mint chocolate.  They don’t!

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4 Responses

  1. I would not consider any of those states to be major travel destinations. The fewer people that travel through, the less likely it is that someone with H1N1 will be coming through to spread the illness.

  2. True, not major travel destinations, or wine destinations for that matter, but both Arkansas and Vermont are nice places. I’m a little partial to Arkansas having grown up there, but know nothing about West Virginia.

  3. I live in WV and although there is no reported cases of this new string of Swine flu, WV did have the oringinal, my mother had swine flu in 1976 while prego with my oldest sister, she was a stay at home mom and never traveld and we ownd no animals. All crazy stuff i tell ya!

  4. In Hong KOng,the Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has announced that all primary and lower-level schools will close for a fortnight.

    The decision for the two-week closure, effective from tomorrow, was made after a cluster of influenza-like cases at St Paul’s Convent School was found to be swine flu infections.

    The number of cases in the St Paul cluster was also raised to 12 from nine previously.

    Authorities were unable to identify the source of the infection, making it the first cluster of human swine flu cases in the city without a known link to those travelling overseas, prompting the closures.

    Primary schools, kindergartens and nurseries will be closed until the start of the next school year if they are unable to resume school before the end of the current school year on July 10.

    The Education Bureau has reached an understanding with principals that special arrangements will be made for Primary Five examinations, a key factor in getting into a good secondary school, if schools have to stay closed until the start of the new school year.

    The schools will be closed until June 25 and the bureau will confirm their reopening or announce changes in plans on June 23.

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