Hundreds of thousands of low-income U.S. residents in inner cities, the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia, areas near the Mexico border and tribal reservations remain undiagnosed and untreated for diseases that are prevalent in Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to an analysis published on Monday in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, USA Today reports.
The analysis, conducted by Peter Hotez of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases and titled "Neglected Infections of Poverty in the United States," found that residents in those areas are more likely to have mental retardation, heart disease and epilepsy, among other conditions, caused by untreated tropical and other infectious diseases. These diseases primarily affect women and children in those areas, according to the analysis (Sternberg, USA Today, 6/24). The diseases include Chagas, cysticercosis and worm diseases, as well as dengue fever, syphilis and cytomegalovirus (McNeil, New York Times, 6/24).
Hotez cited the need to conduct more studies on the diseases and screen more infants for the conditions. He called the lack of attention to the diseases a "national disgrace" (New York Times, 6/24). "If this were occurring among white mothers in the suburbs, you'd hear a tremendous outcry," Hotez said.
According to Carlos Franco-Paredes of Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, who was not involved in the analysis, many physicians do not examine patients for the diseases, despite their prevalence. Franco-Paredes cited the need to screen minorities, immigrants and refugees for the diseases and ensure that physicians can diagnose and treat them (USA Today, 6/24).