News of the WeekSwine Flu Outbreak

Worries About Africa as Pandemic Marches On

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Science  07 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5941, pp. 662
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_662

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With HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, and a host of other diseases competing for attention, influenza has never been high on most African countries' priority lists, and getting a handle on the spread of influenza viruses in Africa has long been problematic because laboratories and surveillance have been lacking. But a 2002 outbreak in Madagascar and a similar one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2003 suggest that, with its myriad of problems, Africa—especially south of the Sahara—might be harder hit by the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus than any other continent. The virus has so far been detected in 16 African countries, and experts fear that the high HIV infection rates in many African countries could worsen the pandemic's impact.