H1N1 harder to survive in poor nations: WHO
H1N1 influenza is "a virus of extremes" likely to cause far more deaths in poor countries than affluent ones, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said on Tuesday.
The pandemic flu virus caused mild symptoms in most patients, the overwhelming majority of whom recover fully within a week and without medical treatment, added Chan. But she warned the small subset of patients who developed serious illness from the strain widely known as "swine flu" needed very specialised, intensive care to survive infection.
Pregnant women, diabetics and those with stressed immune systems have been most vulnerable to severe infection from H1N1, which was discovered in North America in April and declared a global pandemic in June. Such patients are in danger in countries lacking adequate hospitals, doctors, nurses, antivirals, vaccines, and clean water.
H1N1 virus, which is causing manageable disruption in affluent countries, will have a devastating impact in countries with limited health facilities and staff, no regular supplies of essential medicines, little diagnostic and laboratory capacity, and vast populations with no access to safe water and sanitation, warned Chan.
The WHO has estimated that 2 billion people could eventually catch the new strain and governments worldwide are scrambling to secure access to vaccines under development.
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