Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Influenza causes a huge medical and financial burden for Chinese families

Influenza burden was highest in children under five, Guangdong study shows
by Michael Woodhead
China's first major hospital-based influenza study has found that it affects children under five particularly badly and causes an enormous health and financial burden on families.
Dr Guo Runing and colleagues from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention of Guangdong Province, Guangzhou, conducted a  hospital-based prospective study in Zhuhai City in 2008–2009. All outpatient influenza-like illness (ILI) cases were identified in 28 sentinel hospitals, and this showed the incidence of influenza was 19.2 per 1,000 population in 2009.
Children aged under five years of age were the most-affected population, suffering from influenza at the highest rates, but an especially high incidence was also seen in young people aged 5–24 years during the swine flu pandemic of 2009. Influenza-like illness activity and influenza virus detection showed a consistent seasonal pattern, with a summer peak in July 2008 and a long epidemic period lasting from July–December 2009.
The medical costs per episode of influenza among urban patients were higher than those for rural patients, with a total of $1.1 million in direct economic losses associated with outpatient influenza during 2008–2009 in Zhuhai alone.
The researchers conclude that it is evident that the direct costs (mostly medical costs) of influenza impose an enormous burden on the patient family.
"Vaccination strategies for high-risk groups need to be further strengthened," they suggest.
The also note that influenza also produced significant pressure on patients' families., with financial costs  for one episode of influenza accounting for 5–15% of the average monthly family income among local residents.
"These figures are probably conservative, as our study includes only outpatients, whereas hospitalisation often results in greater economic expenditures. We may [also be underestimating the true disease burden of influenza among outpatients. The economic burden of influenza would be higher if we considered indirect burdens caused by absenteeism from work, escorting patients, and visiting costs," they say.
Source: PLOS One

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