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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Russia, the Wealthy, Healthy Country

Axcess News reports on wealthy, healthy Russia, a paradise under Vladimir Putin
. . . except of course for small matters like being ravaged by tuberculosis at a rate more than twenty times higher than in the United States, the 11th highest rate in the entire world.

Russia's high rate of tuberculosis will decline when living conditions improve, experts on health issues said Tuesday during a discussion at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
The experts said the main reasons for the TB problem in Russia are that people don't eat properly and don't have an appropriate system of health care to diagnose TB. They said it is less possible to overcome this disease without normal nutrition and living conditions. In Russia, high rates of alcoholism and drug addiction also add to the problem, experts said during the discussion. The experts recommended Russians should know more about the problem of TB and its treatment.

In Russia in 2002, according to statistics presented at the conference, 113 of every 100,000 people had TB. In the U.S., five people per 100,000 had the disease. Russia ranks 11th in TB rates in the world after African and Asian countries, according to the 2005 report of the World Health Organization. About 73 Russians die every day because of TB, according to Russian state statistics. Mortality due to TB is three times higher among men than among women in Russia, according to the WHO report.

People with TB suffer from constant coughing, usually with high fever. As they cough, infected people transfer more TB bacteria to those around them. Specialists say that anyone with health problems is susceptible to TB infection. Those with HIV and pregnant women are more likely to become infected. According to the WHO statistics, the rate of TB in Russia remains the same as it was during Soviet Union times. Russia has several state programs to support ill people, but the experts said the system of diagnosis and treatment needs modernization and more money from the state budget. Salmaan Keshavjee, an associate physician at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, headed a project in the central Russian province of Tomskaya Oblast to support sick people with medication and diagnostics. In 2001, nearly 40 percent of the population of the province had TB, he said. His group worked with about 250 people. At the end of the project, 188 people were cured and 12 died, Keshavjii said. Their patients' main problems were poverty and alcoholism, he said. Keshavjee said prisons house the most people with TB. There, the rate of sick people is 30 times higher than among civilians. The main reasons for that, Keshavjee said are bad conditions and that the prisons are usually overcrowded.

Most forms of TB can be treated with a variety of drugs. The conference was part of the Wilson Center's Global Health Initiative, which provides an interdisciplinary forum for examining health issues

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