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Groups: Swine Flu Focus Bad for Other Diseases

Groups: Swine Flu Focus Bad for Other Diseases

Associated Press/AP Online

May 20, 2009

GENEVA – Diseases killing millions of people all over the world are being neglected at this year’s World Health Assembly because of fears about swine flu and its potential to become a pandemic, health campaigners said Wednesday. Medecins Sans Frontieres said it was upset that discussions were postponed on fighting Chagas disease, a scourge in Latin American countries. Cancer and diabetes groups said non-communicable diseases responsible for 35 million deaths a year needed greater attention. And hepatitis campaigners were disappointed that a first-ever WHO resolution addressing that disease was dropped from the meeting’s agenda.

Health officials from some poorer nations also could not understand why the diseases hurting them most were a distant second to swine flu.

“Malaria, drug-resistant tuberculosis — they are killing people every day,” said Dr. Sam Zaramba, Uganda’s chief medical officer. “If all the emphasis that has been put on swine flu had been put on malaria and TB, we would have made a bigger impact on health.”

Zaramba and other African officials said they had to fight hard to get tuberculosis back on the agenda of the five-day meeting.

So far, the swine flu virus that has infected more than 10,000 people — mostly in Mexico and the United States — appears little more dangerous than seasonal flu. Most people infected do not need treatment, but the concern of many of the world’s leading health authorities is that the virus may somehow mutate into a more lethal disease.

WHO spokesman Thomas Abraham said some issues had to be dropped when the agency’s 193 member nations decided to shorten their annual meeting because their ministers were needed at home to prepare against a possible flu pandemic.


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