A team of health specialists from Australia and Fiji has arrived in Solomon Islands to tackle an outbreak of dengue fever. Since the first case was reported four months ago, the virus has continued to spread quickly. Three people have died and there are at least 2,500 suspected cases of dengue fever, mostly in the capital Honiara. However Dr Yvan Souares, who manages the Health Protection program at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, says the virus could easily spread to other regions. “Population movements between the capital city and the various provinces are of course are very important in countries like the Solomon Islands and especially of course you are aware of the tsunami and all the damages that affected the provice of Temotu,” he said. “Currently the public health systems in the Solomons is very stretched out.” The strain of dengue fever is one which hasn’t been seen in the Pacific for 30 years. Dr Souares says it’s also never been reported in Solomon Islands. “You have to exercise some caution in interpreting these facts – because the recording in some countries like the Solomons is not fully reliable,” he said. “Historical data never mention this strain in the Solomons in the past, but that does not mean it do not reach there. “But…it seems that a lot of the population is not immune to the virus – hence the high number of cases and the spread to a lot of provinces now.” Dr Souares says it’s important to reiterate that the current virus in the Solomons is no different to any previous outbreak. “It’s a little bit like influenza virus, which circulates amongst a population…and when it reaches a population which has not seen that virus for a while, the fringe of that population is therefore susceptible to the virus,” he said. “There’s no specific harm that’s being caused by this virus because of its changes in genetics for example – there’s no such thing going on.” Topics:
Wealthy tourists spend $26m in Australia for medical care
While an increasing number of Australians are travelling to Asian countries such as Thailand and Singapore for cheap care, Australian doctors and hospital chiefs say a small but increasing number of wealthy people from the Asia-Pacific region are coming to Australia for treatments such as orthopaedic and heart surgery, cancer services and IVF. Data from Tourism Research Australia, the federal government’s agency in charge of tracking trends, shows 10,739 people came to Australia for medical reasons in the year to September 2013 – double the number in 2006. The data, which models information from surveys of 40,000 people in Australian airports each year, found medical tourists spent about $26 million in 2013, up from $12.7 million in 2006. This figure did not include their airfares and packages they had already purchased. It comes as the Victorian government works on a strategy to increase health and medical exports including medical tourism. Opportunities are being discussed particularly in the context of Melbourne’s increasingly prestigious Parkville Precinct which includes the new $1 billion Comprehensive Cancer Centre, which is hoped to deliver cutting edge care when it opens in late 2015. Some of those patients had family connections in Australia or had heard about specialist care that they wanted here, he said, while others fell unexpectedly ill while visiting Australia. CEO of Monash IVF James Thiedeman said about 50 medical tourists a year paid a premium rate for treatments at Monash IVF, possibly because of its reputation for new technology such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and the fact that prices in Australia were about 20 per cent less than the US. Economists say rising wealth in countries such as China and Indonesia could be driving people to seek high-quality care in Australia, particularly in niche areas such as weight-loss surgery, robotic surgery, orthopaedic surgery and IVF. A Deloitte report on medical tourism opportunities for the Australian government in 2011 said surveys in China had found 8 per cent travelled to other countries for medical care, with only 13 per cent believing that the quality of care available in China was comparable to the best in the world. Only a quarter said their physicians had access to the latest technology. A 2010 Victorian government report on export opportunities also suggested Victorian hospitals set up ”assistance centres” in Indonesian cities to guide people wanting to travel to Australia for medical treatment. ”In general, the service would include transportation, medical referrals and appointments, hotel accommodations, assistance before, during and after hospitalisation, and customer service assistance for billing and financial inquiries,” the report said.