A new study by the Belgian institute for health Sciensano estimates the annual cost of acute gastroenteritis for the Belgian economy at an amount comprised between 210 million and one billion euros. Higher than originally assumed, this estimate takes into account the direct and indirect costs of the disease for the entire population.
To evaluate the cost of acute gastroenteritis (diarrhea, vomiting, etc.), Sciensano has used different sources of data: mortality figures, number of hospitalisations, number of GP visits and population surveys. The study reveals that, each year, the Belgian population suffers from more than 10 million cases of acute gastroenteritis, which represents about one episode per inhabitant and per year on average. These episodes lead to 465,000 consultations with a general practitioner, 28,000 hospitalisations and 345 deaths. The study also indicates that the disease generates a loss of 12,000 healthy life years for the entire population.
The direct cost of acute gastroenteritis cases is just over € 112 million a year, with most of this figure covering the medical costs of GP visits, hospitalisations and medication. The indirect cost linked to the loss of productivity is nonetheless more difficult to assess. The most conservative estimates point to a cost of nearly 100 million euros a year, but this amount could explode to just over one billion euros. The total cost of episodes of acute gastroenteritis in Belgium would thus vary between 210 million and a little more than one billion euros every year.
Cases of acute gastroenteritis are mainly due to food poisoning and close contact with infected persons (e.g. at school, at work, in a care institution, etc.). Public authorities, food industry and consumers all play a key role in ensuring the highest standards of food safety. With this in mind, consumers are encouraged to consider five basic tips for safer food:
1) Get in the habit of cleanliness
2) Separate raw foods from cooked foods
3) Cook food properly
4) Keep food at the right temperature and respect the cold and hot chains
5) Use water and safe products
The study of the Belgian institute for health Sciensano covers the years 2010 to 2014. It was published in the scientific journal ‘Epidemiology and Infection’.