Swine Flu Could Threaten Millions With Other Diseases
April 30, 2009
In countries other than Mexico with confirmed outbreaks, the H1N1 or swine flu strain has caused mainly minor symptoms. However, epidemiologists are warning it could be especially dangerous to people already fighting other infections like HIV or TB.
H1N1 has killed up to 160 people, including a 23-month-old child in Texas -- the first death from the flu strain outside Mexico. In Mexico, the outbreak has raised alarm among health officials due to its lethal effect on young adults, a population normally more resilient to influenza than infants and the elderly.
Of the deaths in Mexico, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Gregory Hartl said, "Maybe people were infected with other illnesses too that made their illness more severe. Maybe they were immunologically suppressed."
An estimated 33 million people have HIV/AIDS worldwide, and another 9 million are diagnosed with TB each year, according to WHO. If H1N1 spreads to these communities and infiltrates densely populated and impoverished urban slums, health experts believe the outbreak could rapidly worsen.
WHO officials are urging governments to ensure that HIV and TB patients get the treatment they need to remain healthy, and to enhance access to care in poor areas.
"Many of the world's poorest people are particularly vulnerable to lethal airborne diseases," noted Glenn Thomas of the Stop TB Partnership. "With health resources already stretched in low-income countries, a new disease pandemic could jeopardize effective TB control and other health programs."
04.29.2009; Laura MacInnis
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.