Jess

China bird flu cases are surging, in deadliest outbreak since 2009

China bird flu cases are surging, in deadliest outbreak since 2009

Recent news headlines have reported a surge in the China bird flu death toll, where in the months of January and February a total of 140 people died from the deadly H7N9 strain of the bird flu virus. The amount of deaths in the first two months of 2017 alone has already surpassed the annual totals of avian flu reported in recent years. In 2010, the H1N1 subtype led to a death toll of 147.

The alarming spike of avian flu recorded in 2017 has thus placed the H7N9 strain of bird flu at the top of the list of pandemic threats from among a dozen avian and animal flu viruses, which has afflicted several hundred people in China for the past few flu seasons, since the first human case was reported in 2013.

Where did bird flu H7N9 originate from?

First discovered in China back in 2013, the H7N9 strain of bird flu was relatively rare, with about 100 to 300 reported cases each year. However, this flu season has seen a whopping 460 confirmed cases of H7N9, mostly in eastern China. This is quite alarming, considering that the average cases of H7N9 between 2013 to 2016 is around 200.

Avian flu has been around for a long time, and first originated in aquatic birds (e.g. ducks), who occasionally make their way into domestic poultry flocks (e.g. chicken). The virus can then trigger sporadic human infections, usually among people who work within close vicinity of infected poultry, e.g. in wet markets.

In December last year, Hinchliffe and three co-authors published a book titled: Pathological Lives: Disease, Space and Biopolitics, which argued that a number of factors, including selective breeding and the surge in poultry populations, have facilitated the evolution of bird flu. For instance, the use of antibiotics in making birds grow faster has meant that disease tolerance is often compromised.

Most bird flu viruses are not lethal to poultry, as they are what scientists term a “low path virus”, which usually causes no disease or only very mild illness in poultry, e.g. a drop in egg production. H7N9 bird flu was originally, up until recently, a low path virus. However, the virus can evolve and become highly pathogenic if they are allowed to circulate for too long, especially in live poultry markets where birds are crowded into small cages, sometimes for several days. This allowed the virus to mutate and spread to humans.

What’s so alarming about the H7N9 strain of bird flu?

460 cases of H7N9 cases may not sound like a big deal to a lot of people, but here’s a few reasons why you shouldn’t be so sanguine about it:

  1. The H7N9 strain has an alarmingly high fatality rate. 41% of people who get it, die.
  2. In 2017 an evolved form of the H7N9 strain has popped up. As it’s new, the current vaccines don’t work as well against it.
  3. In cases where H7N9 evolves into a high path virus, it can cause illnesses that spread a lot more easily inside the body, thus resulting in more damage and a much higher chance of mortality.

What are the odds that the virus will spread between humans?

Virtually all cases of H7N9 cases have been confined to mainland China, mainly in the provinces of Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Jiangsu. People mainly catch the virus from exposure to infected poultry.

The odds of human-to-human H7N9 bird flu transmission are very low, although this can potentially happen to caregivers or immediate family members with weak immune systems. Further mutations in the virus could also mean that the virus may become more easily transmittable between humans in the future.

What are the symptoms of H7N9 bird flu?

The H7N9 virus causes major respiratory symptoms (e.g. severe pneumonia) that can be life threatening.

During the early stages of an H7N9 infection, people will usually experience the following symptoms, which are much akin to what one experiences with the common flu:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain

In later stages, H7N9 infection causes the following:

  • Pneumonia in both lungs
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Multi-organ dysfunction
  • Septic shock (a medical emergency caused by blood infection)
  • Muscle breakdown

What can I do to avoid catching bird flu?

Since H7N9 and other forms of bird flu are mainly transmitted through exposure to infected live poultry, it’s best advised to avoid going to live bird markets or backyard farms, especially in China. Experts say it’s also important to ensure that all poultry products that you’re eating are fully cooked.

Is there a vaccine available to protect yourself against H7N9?

As of the writing of this article, there’s no vaccine publically available to protect against H7N9, although a number pharmaceutical companies have been working on developing vaccines that are currently being tested in animal and human trials. There are however a few vaccines available for preventing the H5N1 subtype of avian flu, which had its first reported outbreak in humans back in 1997.

Are the illnesses caused by H7N9 bird flu treatable?

Antiviral drugs that are used against common flu viruses are also used to treat people infected with H7N9. These include: Oseltamivir (which is sold as Tamiflu), and Zanamivir (sold as Relenza). The most important thing to note here is that these drugs are the most effective when they are administered at the earliest opportunity possible. Another thing to note is that as H7N9 evolves, it may become highly resistant to these drugs.

Final advice

It’s important to consider securing a comprehensive health insurance plan so that, should you require medical care, be it bird flu related or another medical condition, your costs are covered and you are able to access healthcare at the best private facilities in China and internationally. To learn more and get a free quote, contact the insurance experts at Pacific Prime China today!

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance, News
Expat dental insurance in China: Things to consider

Expat dental insurance in China: Things to consider

It is widely known that the cost of dental care varies greatly in China. This is especially true for private clinics, as you will find that advertised prices for dental procedures differ in every facility. Many expats prefer private clinics for treatment from staff that speak their language, the superior service offered, and flexible consultation times. These perks do however come with a hefty price tag, so securing expat dental insurance can be a great way to access high quality care without breaking the bank.

What’s the current status of dental health in China?

Historically speaking, dental health awareness is generally lacking in China. However, living standards have improved considerably in recent years, which has led to a greater number of people paying attention to their dental health. This, combined with the fact that roughly 94 percent of the population has some form of dental condition, makes it understandable that demand for dental care is growing in the country.

Growing demand for dental care

Despite the growing number of private dental clinics in China, supply is still very much outpaced by demand. When compared to the supply of dentists in Western countries, China lags behind with only 100 dentists per one million people. This is a stark difference from 1,270 dentists per one million in Greece, 830 dentists per one million in Sweden, and 770 dentists per one million in Germany. However, over the upcoming years, the dental sector is set to grow amidst a burgeoning middle class, as well as increasing openness to foreign investment in China.

How dental insurance works

Typically speaking, many employer-provided health insurance plans won’t provide dental benefits, which is why many expats choose to secure a separate plan that includes dental coverage. In most cases, dental insurance is available to purchase as a supplementary benefit on top of a health insurance plan at an additional premium.

The cost of this additional premium differs between plans and by insurer, but you can expect that adding dental benefits will result in a higher premium than a similar plan without these benefits.

What does expat dental insurance in China cover?

In China, there are two main types of dental insurance coverage: Routine Dental Treatment and Major Dental Treatment.

Routine Dental Treatment covers more common forms of dental care such as:

  • Consultations and exams
  • Teeth cleaning
  • Fillings
  • Tooth extraction
  • Emergency dental treatment
  • X-rays
  • Prescriptions

If you require more comprehensive dental benefits, then there is also the option of Major Dental Treatment, which covers more extensive forms of dental procedures. As such, this option charges a higher premium than Routine Dental Treatment. Coverage for Major Dental Treatment will usually include:

  • Periodontic (gum) treatment
  • Bridgework
  • Orthodontic work (e.g. braces)
  • Dentures
  • Crowns
  • Root scaling

Please note that most dental policies only cover treatments that are considered medically necessary, so cosmetic procedures such as tooth whitening won’t be covered, although some plans do offer discounts on certain types of cosmetic dental work.

Does the plan have a waiting period?

It’s not unusual to find a waiting period on dental plans lasting anywhere from 1 month to 24 months. This is the period of time you will need to wait once you’ve purchased your plan before you can make a claim on any dental benefits. During this time, you will likely receive little to no benefits.

Will you be travelling for dental care?

Travelling for dental care has become increasingly common in China, and there are many popular travel destinations nearby (e.g. Thailand and Malaysia) that boast excellent dental facilities at a great value. If you’re considering travelling overseas for treatment, or if you travel and/or move countries often and would like the option of keeping up with your annual dental check-ups wherever you are in the world, securing international insurance coverage may be an ideal option for you and your family. Designed with the needs of expats in mind, these international plans are globally portable, meaning that you will be covered in any country where your plan can be used.

When it comes to shopping around for an expat dental insurance plan, there can be quite a few things to consider, and also a variety of policy stipulations and limitations to watch out for. That is why it often pays to seek advice from an insurance expert like Pacific Prime China. To talk to one of our experienced advisors, feel free to contact us today!

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance
Having the healthiest pregnancy possible in China

Having the healthiest pregnancy possible in China

It can be daunting having a baby away from your home country, especially when considering that the Chinese healthcare system is likely very different from what you’re used to back home. There are a number of things you’ll need to consider in ensuring that you have the healthiest pregnancy possible in China, one of the major considerations being that you have access to modern facilities so that you are able to receive quality prenatal care prior to giving birth. The good news is that the quality of healthcare in China is improving at a rapid rate, especially after foreign entities have been allowed to invest in private hospitals since 2012.

This article sheds light on what you need to know about hospitals in China, and offers a number of tips on ensuring that you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Healthcare facilities in China

An essential aspect of maintaining a healthy pregnancy is ensuring that you have access to quality medical services during the whole course of your pregnancy. Usually, in the beginning stages of your pregnancy you would expect scans and consultations with an ob/gyn every 4 to 6 weeks, and then increase the frequency of your visits to once every week or once every 2 weeks closer to your delivery date.

Public hospitals

Most cities in China will have direct access to a range of public hospitals. While public hospitals charge much cheaper fees than private hospitals, the quality of service and cleanliness levels in these facilities vary greatly, and the imposing language barrier and long waiting times tend to dissuade the majority of expats from seeking public medical care.

Private and international hospitals

Most expats living in tier 1 cities like Beijing and Shanghai will benefit from the wide selection of Western-style private clinics available. Private facilities offer a number of perks such as much shorter waiting times, quality of care that is on par with Western standards, and English-speaking medical staff.

It’s important to note that the fees charged in these facilities are significantly more expensive than the prices in public hospitals – expect to pay around CNY 4,000 for an ultrasound, and up to CNY 100,000 for a C-section delivery package!

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine

You may also want to consider seeking Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment. Traditional Chinese practices such as acupuncture and Chinese medicine are very popular among Chinese women – they are considered safe practices and are also quite effective in maintaining a healthy pregnancy and alleviating a range of uncomfortable symptoms such as fatigue and nausea.

For example, acupuncture is often used to manage pain and prepare the uterus and cervix for birth. There are also a plethora of TCM treatments available that help promote the health and development of the fetus.

Maintaining a healthy diet during your pregnancy

In order to ensure that you and your baby are receiving all the nutrients needed, it’s important that you consume foods that are rich with folic acid, iron, calcium, protein, and other important vitamins and minerals.

Moms-to-be are advised to add around 300 calories on top of their normal recommended daily intake during the second trimester of their pregnancy, and increase this to 500 calories during your third trimester.

Recommended foods include fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein, and whole grains. It’s best to avoid caffeine and highly advised to stay away from alcohol, as drinking alcohol during your pregnancy may lead to a number of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Try to reduce your exposure to pollution

As mentioned in last month’s article on reducing the harmful health risks of air pollution in China, certain groups of people are more susceptible to the harmful health effects of pollution, and that includes pregnant women. Recent research has linked prenatal exposure to ambient levels of air pollution with an increased risk of low birth weight and infant mortality, mainly due to its harmful cardiovascular and respiratory effects on both the mother and the newborn.

Major cities in China are known for its toxic levels of air pollution, so if you’re planning to stay in China during your pregnancy, it’s highly important that you try to reduce your exposure to pollution by staying indoors and away from heavily trafficked roads when your area’s Air Quality Index (AQI) reaches the high health risk category. You can check your area’s real-time AQI here.

Securing maternity insurance early enough on your policy

Moms-to-be are highly advised to secure maternity insurance to offset the high cost of pregnancy in China. The importance of securing maternity insurance early enough on your policy cannot be stressed enough. The reason for this is because maternity benefits are attached with a waiting period usually lasting 10-12 months, so you’ll need to plan ahead before starting a family if you want to ensure that your maternity costs are covered.

If you’re already pregnant and would like coverage for your newborn, you may still be able to secure a New Born Child benefit as this will usually have a shorter waiting period – some as short as 6 months.

If you’ve got any further questions regarding maternity insurance or would like some insurance or maternity-related advice, feel free to get in touch with our team of experts (and moms!) at Pacific Prime China today.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance
China featured in 2017 International Private Medical Insurance inflation report

China featured in 2017 International Private Medical Insurance inflation report

Pacific Prime China is excited to announce that our global partner Pacific Prime has released the 2017 annual edition of the International Private Medical Insurance (IPMI) inflation report, which reveals the overall 2016 global premium inflation rate and presents analysis on premium prices charged by top IPMI plans offered by leading insurance providers in 10 key locations around the world. These countries are categorized into the following regions: Southeast Asia, Middle East, and Rest of World.

Presented in an easy to read format, this report is highly recommended for anyone interested in looking at how much they’re paying for IPMI, and should also be of high interest for insurers looking for information on premium prices in the various regions.

This article presents an overview of the findings from the latest IPMI inflation report. To access the report, click here for the website version, or click here to download your FREE PDF copy.

Key findings on global IPMI inflation

Pacific Prime’s report reveals that the average global IPMI inflation rate in 2016 was 9.2% – the exact same as the inflation rate in 2015. As shown in the graph below, the inflation rates observed in 2015 and 2016 have significantly increased from the 2014 inflation figure of 7.1%. The inflation rate in 2015 was around 5 percentage points higher than the average Consumer Price (CP) inflation rate in the countries included in this report – this remained consistent in 2016.

IPMI inflation in China

China has seen an increase in demand for quality healthcare services from the middle classes and an improved perception of health insurance. The average IPMI inflation figure in China hiked up to 12.06% in 2016 – 2.86% higher than the average global IPMI inflation rate, and a significant increase from China’s 2015 inflation rate of 9.5%. The trends impacting IPMI inflation in China include the maturing insurance market and growing government health regulations.

Key IPMI inflation drivers

As with the previous reports, the following 4 long term inflation drivers continue to make up a strong part of the explanation behind IPMI inflation:

  • New medical technology: The high costs of new medical technology research are usually passed onto patients by increasing healthcare fees, subsequently leading to inflating premium prices.
  • An imbalance of healthcare resources: Due to a range of factors including the ageing population, the imbalance of supply and demand for healthcare resources continues to increase – insurers cover the risks posed from growing demand by inflating premiums.
  • Increased compensation for healthcare professionals: The rising salaries of medical professionals are covered by rising healthcare costs, thus leading to the rise in premium prices.
  • Healthcare overutilization: There’s a growing trend towards the introduction of state-provided mandatory insurance in various regions, such as in the UAE. This has led to an increased strain on healthcare and an increase in the number of claims submitted, and insurers are responding to this by hiking up premiums.

The 2017 IPMI report has also identified 3 newly emerged trends driving premium inflation:

  • Global economic uncertainty: Global, regional, and domestic pressures have had an impact on the low economic growth observed in the countries included in this report, all of which influence IPMI through flow on effects. For example, China has experienced a growing resistance to foreign expat workers as GDP slows.
  • Changing population dynamics: The report has identified an expat “exodus” in some of the most popular expat locations, such as in Singapore and the UAE. Despite slowly dwindling expat numbers in certain regions, there’s an observable growth in demand for IPMI from increasingly wealthy local populations and high networth individuals (HNW).
  • Increasing availability of technology: Although technology has not yet had a significant impact on IPMI, Pacific Prime predicts this IPMI inflation driver will increase in force in the foreseeable future. For example, as the use of big data continues to become increasingly sophisticated, the management of insurance premium inflation may see an improvement in the years to come.

For a more in-depth analysis on the 2017 IPMI inflation report findings, you can view it here and download it for FREE here. If you’d like to have a chat with us, feel free to contact us today and one of our insurance advisors will be in touch shortly.

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance, News
Pacific Prime China is now on WeChat!

Pacific Prime China is now on WeChat!

Pacific Prime China is excited to announce the launch of our very own portal on popular Chinese messaging platform WeChat – a welcome new addition to our current repertoire of social media accounts already on Facebook, and LinkedIn. Joining an active user base of 846 million, the official Pacific Prime China WeChat account now offers a whole host of exciting new features exclusive to our followers. To avail these perks, simply follow us on WeChat (WeChat ID: PacificPrime) today!

Pacific Prime China meets Chinese market trends

In joining the ubiquitous WeChat platform, Pacific Prime China taps into a whole new audience of avid users – more than 90% of WeChat users go on the messaging app every day, and over 50% of users use WeChat more than 1 hour daily! By keeping up-to-date with the latest market trends in China, Pacific Prime China joins in with 560,000 other official company accounts on the most popular online community channel in China.

With a current active user base that is hiking its way up to the 1 billion user mark, WeChat has far surpassed Twitter’s 317 million users and is steadily catching up with Facebook’s 1.79 billion active users. Interestingly, corporate workers form the largest user group on WeChat, making up 40.4% of total users.

More than just a messaging platform

Pacific Prime China sees enormous potential in finding new ways of personalizing our services to existing and new clients on WeChat, especially when looking at the different ways that users are currently engaging with the platform. For example, not only are people communicating via chat, but they are also engaging on its social media platform “Moments” with friends and companies – a significant 61.4% of users go onto WeChat Moments when they open the app.

Another popular feature is WeChat Payment, which links WeChat with the user’s credit card. There are now 200 million users connected to WeChat Payments, and this highly availed feature has even seen over 8 billion “red envelopes” sent over WeChat during Chinese New Year in 2016!

Key features offered in new Pacific Prime China WeChat portal

Here are a key few of the many exciting new features that you can expect from the new Pacific Prime China WeChat portal:

  • Claims processing: Existing clients of Pacific Prime China can now access their policy details, easily process claims, and also change their policy information.
  • Assisting new clients: Our WeChat portal allows us to assist our new clients with regards to securing their new policies
  • Access to a dedicated service team: We now have a dedicated team servicing our WeChat account, helping you with any questions you may have.
  • Keeping you informed: Followers will be able to access exclusive blog articles so that they can stay up-to-date on the latest, most important market information relevant to the insurance industry, covering topics related to expat health insurance, general insurance, health trends, and many more.

Don’t forget to follow us!

To access the exciting new features now available on Pacific Prime China’s latest portal, be sure to follow us via our WeChat ID: PacificPrime, or by scanning the QR code below:

Pacific Prime China WeChat

 

Interested in learning more about our WeChat portal or the plans that we offer? Contact us today and our team of insurance advisors will be more than happy to have a chat.

Posted by Jess in General Insurance, News