U.S. poverty-linked infections prevalent

March 30, 2011 at 1:04 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- The threat of dengue fever and the prevalence of parasitic infections are a reality for tens of thousands in the United States, an expert says.

Dr. Peter Hotez of the George Washington University, who is president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, says the infections that plague the poor threaten the poorest people living in the Gulf Coast states and in Washington.

In an editorial published in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Hotez says post-hurricane Katrina conditions in the Gulf coast states coupled with the BP oil disaster and extreme levels of poverty make some areas vulnerable to neglected infections of poverty.

Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Chagas disease and cutaneous leishmaniasis, as well as non-vector borne neglected infections like trichomoniasis and toxocariasis, are affecting the people living in this region, Hotez says. Washington is one of the worst U.S. cities in terms of life expectancy and health index -- meaning its residents suffer from the lowest incomes, lowest educational attainment and shortest life expectancy, Hotez says.

Despite the fact that these conditions are triggers for neglected infections, no surveillance data currently exist to reflect their prevalence, the editorial says.

"Because these infections are serious problems that perpetuate poverty, I am extremely concerned about the welfare of the people in these regions," Hotez says in a statement. "A national plan to help these people is critical."

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