As part of the 2013 National Programme Against Flu, the report “Flu and its costs" was prepared. According to the authors, the costs connected with the diminished effectiveness of the sick and absence from work can amount to PLN 4.3 billion per season.
Flu is one of the most common viral infectious diseases. It is caused by a virus that attacks the airways. As a viral disease, flu is treated symptomatically, and the a main way to limit the negative consequences is prophylactic vaccination.
The flu virus more dangerous than others
There are over 200 different types of respiratory viruses causing similar symptoms to flu;, however, they do not result in such serious complications. Infections caused by the flu virus can be a cause of multi-organ complications, leading to disability, or even death.
According to the World Health Organisation, 330 million to 1.76 billion people suffer from flu every year, 3-5 million people register with acute symptoms of the illness, and from 500 thousand to a million die.
In a report prepared by the consulting company Ernst & Young it was emphasised that the clinical course of the disease depends on more than just the characteristics of the virus. It also depends on patients’ resistance, their age, eating habits, use of tobacco (as a negative influence on the airways) or coexisting chronic diseases (of the heart, lungs, kidneys, condition after organ and tissue transplants, tumours, CTDs, diabetes, etc.)
The types of costs connected with flu
The authors of the report enumerate three types of costs of the disease.
Direct costs, i.e. expenditures incurred as a result of medical intervention or treatment processes, e.g. the costs of medicines, doctor’s appointments, tests or hospitalisation.
According to the authors, in Poland, direct costs in the years with no epidemic outbreaks amount to around PLN 43.5 million. In years of average morbidity PLN 181 million and in the case of an epidemic even up to PLN 730 million.
The calculations were based on NFZ data about expenditures on flu treatment and some of the complications, an appraisal of the Primary Care services and a medicines basket for flu and the most common airway diseases occurring as complications.
Indirect costs are those costs which the economy incurs due to absence or long-term absence from work as a result of one’s own illness or the necessity to take care of a sick person, diminished efficiency at work of people who are ill but did not take leave, or their possible permanent incapability to work, or death.
The indirect costs can constitute from 30 to 95 percent of the overall measurable costs of illnesses.
The report estimates that in seasons without an epidemic the indirect costs connected to flu in Poland amount to approx. PLN 836 million, in the case of average morbidity PLN 1.5 billion and in a season with an epidemic breakout – even PLN 4.3 billion.
The third group of costs are intangible costs connected with the worsening of the quality of life, loss of leisure time or limited functioning possibilities (e.g. social activity).
As the most common post-flu complication, pneumonia, bronchitis and acute otitis media can be enumerated, as well as streptococcus-induced throat inflammation. More rare are myocarditis, encephalitis, and meningitis.
These complications are often revealed after some time from the flu infection; they are most common in children under the age of two, elderly people, and patients with chronic diseases.
Nearly 90 percent of deaths due to flu and its complications occur in people over the age of 60.