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HIV patients at higher risk from flu, WHO says

PEOPLE with HIV are at high risk from the new flu strain that the World Health Organisation said is on the verge of pandemic, the WHO said today.

The United Nations agency said people with immunodeficiency diseases -- including the AIDS virus -- will most likely be vulnerable to health complications from the H1N1 strain, as they are from regular seasonal flu.

HIV and the new flu strain could also mix together in a dangerous way, as has occurred with HIV and tuberculosis, the WHO said in guidance for health workers on its website.

"Although there are inadequate data to predict the impact of a possible human influenza pandemic on HIV-affected populations, interactions between HIV/AIDS and H1N1 Influenza A could be significant," it said.

"HIV-infected persons should be considered as a high risk and a priority population for preventive and therapeutic strategies against influenza including emerging influenza A(H1N1) virus infection," it said.

Countries with high rates of HIV -- most of which are in Africa -- should work to ensure that vulnerable people get the drugs they need to fight off the flu infection, the WHO said.

"Patients at higher risk for complications of influenza including those with HIV infection should be among those prioritized for antiviral treatment with oseltamivir or zanamivir which shortens illness duration and severity in seasonal influenza," its guidance read.

It is best if people infected with the flu strain start to take the antiviral within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, according to the WHO. There are no known problems with taking those drugs alongside the anti-retroviral that HIV patients take to suppress their virus.


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