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Swine Flu Hits Indigenous Groups Hard

(MYFOX NATIONAL) - With swine flu cases in the U.S. continuing to rise -- health officials said Friday that 76 U.S. children have died of swine flu, including 19 new reports in the past week -- a recent report states that the swine flu infection rate among the world's indigenous people is four to five times higher than that of the general population.

According to National Geographic , the world's indigenous population -- people living in tribes and other groups who live on the lands that their ancestors inhabited -- are at greatest risk for swine flu.

Several factors make these native peoples more vulnerable to the H1N1 virus. Native peoples' immune systems generally aren't as strong as the rest of the population. Also, native groups often have relatively low standards of living and are lacking in education, public health, and infrastructure. Many indigenous communities live in poverty, with poor sanitation and overcrowding as well.

"Isolated peoples have little or no immunity to outside diseases, meaning that any contact with outsiders with swine flu could spell disaster for the tribes," said Stephen Corry, director of Survival International.

Indigenous people in Canada, Australia and Peru have already been inundated by the virus, which in most cases was introduced to the remote villages by workers interacting with the natives.

A major Machiguenga Indian federation, known by its Spanish initials COMARU, and the California-based rights group Amazon Watch have both long called on the Peruvian government to develop stricter guidelines on oil companies who have employees working near remote rain forest cultures.

In Peru's remote Amazon, migrant oil company workers have been exposing more and more isolated native groups to new germs, according to Atossa Soltani of Amazon Watch.

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