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Africa struggles to fend off A/H1N1 flu
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14:27, May 06, 2009

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· World moves to contain the spread of A/H1N1 flu
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The Africans are struggling to prevent A/H1N1 influenza from arriving in the continent which has already been plagued by vital diseases such as AIDS.

According to the latest tally, the A/H1N1 flu has killed 31 worldwide, 29 in Mexico and two in the United States, with confirmed and suspected cases totalling 3,271.

Although there have been no confirmed cases of the killer virusin Africa so far, experts say that the disease could weaken health system and take a huge human toll in the continent once there would be a outbreak.

"People living with HIV/AIDS would be much affected because their immune system is already weak," said Sam Zaramba, director of health service in Uganda.

While the world is focusing its attentions on the A/H1N1 flu, thousands of Africans die without notice every day due to treatable diseases.

Statistics showed that nearly 3,000 children died each day of malaria, many simply for lack of a bed net. And a meningitis epidemic that has swept countries like Nigeria has killed more than 1,900 people and have sickened 56,000 more since January.

Concerns have been raised about whether the African authorities would be able to trace the A/H1N1 influenza.

Zimbabwe, where Cholera has killed 4,000 and sickened more than 80,000, has tightened surveillance at all ports of entry by intensifying the screening of flu-like syptoms of people coming into the country.

As a preventative measure, Kenya has established 26 surveillance centers nationwide to stop a possible spread of the killer virus.

The continent's richest country, South Africa, with an estimated 1,000 people die every day due to HIV/AIDS, admits its slow response to A/H1N1 influenza.

The country is also rushing to buy thermal imaging scanners at a cost of 120,000 U.S. dollars each for installation at major entry ports. However, medical professionals condemn that it is not reliable means of determining whether or not a person is infected.

Duncan Mitchell, professor of the school of Physiology at Wits University, said it was "impossible" for scanners to detect a virus in passengers entering an airport.

The Health Ministry of South Africa now has sufficient stock of tamiflu to treat 100,000 people.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday it was sending a total of 2.4 million treatment courses of antiviral drugs to 72 "most in need" countries including Mexico, yet did not disclose the full list of countries receiving the drugs.

A total of 1,883 people from 21 countries have now been confirmed to have been infected with the A/H1N1 flu.


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