Cost of an Outbreak of Hepatitis A in Puglia, Italy
In total, 5889 cases of hepatitis A virus infection were reported during an outbreak in Puglia, a region of Southern Italy, in 1996. The primary cause of the outbreak was consumption of contaminated food (raw shellfish, vegetables, etc.), with a contributory risk factor of person-to-person transmission. A detailed questionnaire was completed by 250 randomly selected patients to obtain information sufficient to calculate the direct and indirect costs of the outbreak for the individual patient, the National Health Service (NHS) and society as a whole. A conversion rate of $US1 = 1530 Italian lire (L) has been used throughout the study since this was the average exchange rate in 1996. For the individual patient with hepatitis A virus infection, the mean cost was L1.013 million ($US662), which was equivalent to 6.6% of the mean annual income of the employed patients. The total cost of the outbreak to the NHS was L23.98 billion ($US15.67 million), which was equivalent to 0.4% of the total public health expenditure in the region in 1996. The total cost of the outbreak to society (individual patient, NHS and third parties combined) was L37.406 billion ($US24.45 million), corresponding to 0.04% of the gross domestic product of the entire region in 1996, with a mean cost per patient of L6.35 million ($US4150) from a societal perspective. The majority of patients (86.3%) were 11 to 30 years of age, reflecting the increasing susceptibility of younger patients to hepatitis A virus infection in recent decades. These economic and demographic data provide important information for the evaluation of preventive strategies including public education, sanitation and immunisation, so as to optimise the use of local health resources.
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