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29 International Health Round-Up - June 2011

Posted on Jun 29, 2011 by Sergio Ulloa ()

June saw an E. coli outbreak in Europe and a fresh round of bird flu cases in Egypt, as well as the release of insightful research on both medical error and dengue fever. A key theme across health issues remains weighing the long-term benefits of preventative care (or systemic reform) against up-front costs. That the United States showed the highest error rate among seven developed nations does nothing to enhance the rep of its notoriously cost-inefficient health system - worth bearing in mind as the debate over health reform heats up once more. Here are some of the top international health stories of the past 30 days:

E. coli ravages Europe

The top story in June was undoubtedly a deadly E. coli outbreak in Germany. Cases were initially reported in May but escalated sharply in June - as of June 28 around 4,000 people had been sickened and total fatalities stood near 50. German authorities identified bean and seed sprouts as the vehicle for the outbreak. While the number of new cases reported in Germany continues to decline (the total is still rising as a result of delayed reporting), late June brought the emergence of 8 cases in France. These too were linked to consumption of raw sprouts. French and German authorities are in the process of determining whether the bacteria had a common source. For the latest on this story, click here.

USA and Australia show highest medical error rates

Patients who received poorly coordinated medical care or were unable to afford basic medical costs were much more likely to report errors in their medication or treatment, according to a study published in the International Journal of Medical Practice. Researchers from the USA and Australia used data from the Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey to identify the key risk factors behind the errors reported by patients from Canada, USA, the Netherlands, UK, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. 11% of the 11,910 people surveyed said they had suffered a medication or medical error in the last two years. Patients in the USA and Australia reported the highest rates of medical/medication error: 13%. Germany and the UK reported the lowest at 9%. For more on this story, click here.

WHO finds dengue fever costly as it is deadly

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its latest Dengue Bulletin (PDF Link), a special issue devoted to 10 studies on the cost of dengue fever and various prevention strategies. In an age where many diseases are on the decline dengue continues to pose a serious health threat all over the world. In Brazil, for example, the number of cases increased 6.2% and deaths 12% from 1999-2009. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne virus common in tropical climates, including popular expat destinations such as India, Thailand and Malaysia. Studies estimate the annual cost of treating it to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the latter two countries. For India the figure is in the billions. For more on this story, click here.

5 new cases of avian influenza in Egypt

WHO reported 5 new cases of avian influenza (or "bird flu") in Egypt, 3 of which were fatal. The cases were scattered across the country, and are believed to have resulted from exposure to infected poultry. They were confirmed by the Egyptian Central Public Health Laboratory. To date the country has seen 149 cases and 51 deaths from the disease. While avian influenza poses little threat to tourists visiting Egypt on holiday, a spike in cases would do nothing for the country's image. Revenues from tourism were down 46% in the first quarter of 2011 in the wake of the recent revolution. For more on this story, click here. Be sure to check back on this space for more updates in July. About offers a one-stop source for international best practices in expatriate health care, expat trends and regulatory changes impacting the health industry. The site covers both global and regional health issues.
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