Food borne disease cost Belize $6.2 million annually
Friday, August 29th, 2014
The effects of Acute Gastroenteritis Illnesses (AGI) commonly referred to as the stomach flu and other food-borne diseases cost the public health sector an estimated $6.2 million annually. That was the result of the Burden of Illness (BOI) report that was released on Monday, August 25th, following research that was conducted during two specific periods. The research had the input of the Ministry of Health, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) office in Belize and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
According to the release, the survey was launched in September 2012 and was aimed at investigating and estimating the proportion of the population suffering from stomach flu and other food borne diseases, at a specific time period. In addition, it also focused on estimating the economic burden the disease has on the public health system in Belize.
According to the report, a total of 3,110 households were sampled countrywide and a total of 2901 questionnaires were filled with a response rate of 93.6%. The study shows that 7.1% of those households reported stomach flu during the sample period of September to October 2012, which is considered the low season, and the period of April to May 2013, which is considered the high season.
From the results, the study shows that the highest number of cases was reported in the Cayo District followed by the Belize District. “The burden of AGI on the public health system was estimated at BZ$6.2 million annually, taking into consideration basic medical services, supplies and hospitalization, as well as working days lost, and the need for caregiver services,” explained the release.
So what were the main causes of the stomach flu? The release stated, “The predominant biological agents contributing to the disease and other related illnesses over the study period were parasites; however, the highest burden was found for Rotavirus (Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhea in infants and children worldwide) infections.” Food-borne infections are linked to a significant number of illnesses and deaths worldwide. Studies have shown that 70% of diarrheal diseases are food-borne. Research also shows that cases are not reported to the health system.
The Ministry of Health indicated that the results of the survey provides evidence that the estimated health burden of AGI and other food borne diseases are significantly higher than what is reported to their Ministry. The release ends by indicating that the Ministry of Health will use the results to target interventions in food safety and implement improvements in underreporting cases at the laboratory level.
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