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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
Anti-smoking laws strengthened in Shanghai

Anti-smoking laws strengthened in Shanghai

China has one of the world’s largest populations of cigarette smokers; a 2010 study suggesting that there are as many as 300 million. With an estimated 1 billion smokers around the world, that means that China makes up nearly one-third of all cigarette users globally. We know that tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke kills, but what is the Chinese Government doing to reduce its people’s smoking habits?

Tobacco use statistics in China

With one in three cigarettes in the world smoked in China, the country was estimated to have consumed nearly 2.3 trillion cigarettes in 2009. Men are much more likely than women to smoke, with 52.9% of men being tobacco users compared to 2.4% of women. Age-wise, more than half of all Chinese smokers also admitted they started smoking daily before the age of 20. The impact of tobacco use in China is just as staggering.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately one million people die every year in China because of tobacco use. This accounts for one in six of all tobacco-related deaths worldwide. Of that million, around 100,000 people die each year as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke annually. This means that someone in China dies around every 30 seconds because of tobacco use; an alarming total of 3,000 a day.

If tobacco use is not reduced, the WHO warns that the number of tobacco-related deaths every year could increase to 3 million by 2050.

Shanghai moves to strengthen anti-smoking laws

In November 2016, the Chinese Government announced plans to control smoking in public places by imposing nationwide anti-smoking laws by the end of the year. The regulations, introduced by a senior official with the National Health and Family Planning Commission, would prohibit smoking in all indoor public venues, workplaces, and public transport. Public outdoor spaces, including schools, historic sites, stadiums, and hospitals, were included.

While the WHO commended Shanghai’s move to create 100% smoke-free spaces, others were more skeptical considering a similar legislative push against tobacco use was previously introduced in 2011. The Chinese Government had increased the tax on tobacco in 2015, however some products still managed to stay affordably priced below 10 RMB. All in all, people still appear to be optimistic about the anti-smoking laws in Shanghai.

What this should mean for people in Shanghai is that going for a cigarette is going to be harder, as the new regulations also prohibit companies and businesses from designating “smoking rooms”. Smoking in the office or at a restaurant will also be a breach of the law; individuals flouting the laws risk being fined 50-200 RMB, while businesses and companies in violation of the regulations could incur a fine between 2,000-30,000 RMB.

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Smoking impacts on health

By now, the negative impacts of cigarette smoke on health are widely known. Even in China, the Government has acknowledged that tobacco use and secondhand smoke is unnecessarily killing Chinese people every year. If you’re still not sure on how bad smoking cigarettes is for you, here’s a quick run down:

  • Cancer: Tobacco smoke is a carcinogen that can cause a variety of cancers including: lung, oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal, oesophegeal, stomach, liver, and pancreatic cancer, as well as cancers of the kidney, bladder, and cervix. Lung cancer accounts for 70% of all smoking-related deaths around the world.
  • Cardiovascular disease: Heart attacks, coronary, and peripheral artery disease, and stroke risks are all increased for those people who smoke. In China, 46% of men aged 30-44 who die from cardiovascular diseases are smokers.
  • Other diseases and health risks: People with Type 2 diabetes can find that smoking causes issues with their illness, while others will find that their risk of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) and pneumonia will increase. Smoking while pregnant is danger as it can harm the fetus, leading to a low birth weight or other health problems for a mother and baby. Smoking while pregnant can also increase the the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The WHO also states that the awareness about the hazards of smoking in China is relatively low. Only 25% of Chinese adults are estimated to understand comprehensively the exact health hazards of smoking, with less than one-third aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Quitting smoking: support and help in China

If you’re a smoker and you’re looking to be healthier, save money, and avoid breaking the new anti-smoking laws, your best bet for support would be to visit your local doctor. China appears to lack the smoking cessation nonprofits and programs of Western countries. However, your local physician will have the knowledge and medicines available to help you kick the smoking habit.

Another health option you’ll want to consider is making sure you have adequate health insurance coverage should the worst happen as a result of smoking. Pacific Prime China has been providing clients with robust health insurance solutions for over 15 years. Their expert advisers are across both the Chinese health system and legislation, and can ensure that you’re not caught out should you need quick and efficient care.

For a free quote or some advice on smoking cessation, insurance or anything else healthcare related, call the advisers at Pacific Prime China today.

Posted by Luther in News
Follow Pacific Prime on WeChat and be in to win an iPhone 7

Follow Pacific Prime on WeChat and be in to win an iPhone 7

Last month, Pacific Prime China was pleased to share the news that it had launched its very own portal on the popular messaging platform WeChat. The Chinese networking app has already begun connecting users to our dedicated WeChat team in China, and we’re loving the engagement. Now that we’re in 2017, Pacific Prime China has decided it’s time to kick its WeChat campaign into overdrive.

上个月, 寰宇保险有幸通过微信上线了我们的公众号。我们非常高兴的看到过去的一个月中微信已经帮助客户与我们专职的微信服务团队沟通。现在我们迈入了2017年,我们决定是时候让更多人的家人和朋友来关注和使用我们的微信平台。

Follow us on WeChat

WeChat is more than just a messaging app and Pacific Prime China is more than just an insurance broker. Following us on WeChat can ensure that you’ll also have access to some exclusive features such as:

  • Access to our dedicated WeChat servicing centre
  • Keep up to date with current health trends through our news articles
  • New clients can contact us using the WeChat app to get free quotes and insurance

关注我们的微信公众号

就如同微信不仅仅是一个及时信息软件,寰宇保险也不仅仅是一家普通的保险经纪。

关注我们的公众号能提供给您以下精彩的新功能:

  • 提供点对点与我们的微信服务中心直接沟通
  • 为您实时更新最新的健康潮流内容
  • 新客户能直接使用微信得到免费和专业的保险报价

If you’re not already following us yet, then we’ve got a great incentive to connect with us:

Win an iPhone 7!

如果您还没有关注我们,现在关注既有机会赢得一部iPhone7

We absolutely want as many people as possible following Pacific Prime China on WeChat as we’ve got some great things to share, and truly want to engage as best we can with you through more modern technology. In order to help as many people in China with their insurance needs as possible, we’re making the following offer:

我们当然希望有更多的朋友来关注我们的公众号,因为我们有很多很棒的咨询可以分享给您,同时通过微信可以更好的与您实时互动。为了更好的帮助在中国的朋友们找到最适合的保险计划,我们决定第1000名关注我们公众号(ID: PacificPrime)的用户将赢得一台iPhone7.

Pacific Prime China WeChat

Follow us on WeChat (ID: PacificPrime)
and our 1000th follower will win an iPhone 7!

That’s right, a brand new iPhone 7 will be given away to our 1000th follower! The iPhone 7 has introduced advanced new camera systems, better performance and battery life than ever, fantastic new immersive stereo speakers, and the brightest, most colour display an iPhone has ever produced! Add to this splash and water resistance, and the new iPhone 7 really does shine as the best yet.

您没有看过,第1000名关注者就能带走这台手机。相较前几代产品,iPhone 7虽然外观改变不大,但性能升级十分给力。其性能和电池续航力进一步提升,并带来了新款外观、抗水特性和立体声扬声器;采用触感圆润无缝的机身设计,是首款具备防水溅特性的iPhone。

How to win the iPhone 7?

Follow us! Our WeChat ID is PacificPrime, or you can scan the above QR code to do the job for you. Share our WeChat ID too! The more people you have follow Pacific Prime China on WeChat, the closer you will get to becoming that 1000th like! Share our account on your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to really help us reach 1000.

如何赢得这台iPhone7?

关注我们的公众号PacificPrime,或者扫描上方的二维码即可。分享我们的公众号,通过您的分享来关注的用户越多,您就离这台iPhone7越近。同时,通过在脸书,推特和领英上的分享也能帮助您离第1000名关注者越近。

Pacific Prime China

The WeChat account is just one of a number of innovative ways that Pacific Prime China is using to stay ahead in the insurance game. Their experienced experts have been delivering quality insurance solutions to people in China and the rest of the world for more than a decade, and now we’re adapting how we connect with you to make sure we can help more people!

If you’re looking for a free quote, or even just some advice about securing healthcare coverage, then send us a message on WeChat or visit our Pacific Prime China website for more information.

寰宇保险中国

微信公众号仅仅是我们保险革新中的一个平台。我们有长时间从业经验的保险顾问会已经为中国以及全世界的顾客提供了十多年的专业保险经纪服务,通过微信我们将更好的与您实时互动并帮助到更多的人找到合适的保险计划。

Posted by Luther in News
China retirement readiness falling: How to stay on track

China retirement readiness falling: How to stay on track

Retirement is something that needs to be on the minds of every adult, not just those who are nearing their golden years. In fact, planning ahead for three decades or greater is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to ensuring that your financial future is healthy and bright. However, for those in the Middle Kingdom, there has been bad news recently regarding China retirement readiness. Here, Pacific Prime China examines the news and its implications for future China retirees, as well as the areas you should focus on when considering your own personal retirement plans.

China retirement readiness falling

Tsinghua University has released an updated index on retirement readiness that shows China’s rating falling from 6.51 out of 10 in 2015 to 6.0 in 2016. Similarly, in 2015 20% of people reported that they felt they were well prepared for retirement, which dropped to 15.3% of people in 2016. This index takes many factors into account in order to come up with this number, including people’s retirement plans, preparations and expectations. Additional factors include current retirement savings, knowledge of financial issues and financial planning, and awareness of retirement responsibilities.

So what is the reason that China retirement readiness is taking a step backward? There are many factors contributing to this trend, but perhaps the biggest and most obvious general reason is that the Chinese economy and stock market have not been doing so well as of late. Cultural feelings about personal responsibility also seem to be a factor, as only 9% of Chinese citizens feel that retirement financing should fall solely on them. Neighboring territories in Asia, including South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, see this number come to 40% of their respective citizenries. Meanwhile, 63% of citizens believe that the onus of China retirement readiness should fall to the government. This number also sits at 40% in the other territories mentioned.

These feelings may be mirroring the current state of retirement savings in China, where the major vehicles for saving is a government run pension plan. However, there are also voluntary savings plans participated in by both employees and employers, as well as private savings plans and commercial retirement savings plans. The latter products are of negligible popularity in China at the moment, but the Chinese government is promoting such commercial savings vehicles to try to offset providing for an aging population.

Savings and investment

So how should one go about organizing their retirement savings? One of the best ways for people who already have a significant amount of savings is to invest their money. Utilizing capital to create capital is a great way to build up a nest egg and ensure that you can maintain a certain quality of living well into your golden years. Once you have your investments set, and factor in other sources of income like government subsidies for the elderly that you will be eligible, you can create a retirement budget and see if you will have enough money to achieve your desired lifestyle and China retirement readiness goals. Of course, you are going to want to have extra savings available each year so that you can address unexpected costs that arise.

Health insurance

Any retirement planning should start not only with an overview of your financial health, but also your physical health. After all, planning for the future is not strictly about dollars and cents, but also being healthy enough to enjoy your hard earned nest egg. For this reason, factoring in the cost of your future healthcare is important. Of course, one of the best ways to addressing these costs is to make sure that you have a comprehensive health insurance plan in place to avoid the costs that can come along with the major ailments that tend to occur more commonly later in life, such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, etc.

When you are planning your medical insurance there are some common exclusions that come up time and again that you should be aware of. Namely, these are maximum age limits and pre-existing conditions.

Maximum age limits

Many insurers impose maximum age limits on their policies. This is because as people age, insurance underwriters have to consider if the medical costs of the average individual or a certain age will be greater than the premiums that the individual would pay the insurer. An insurance company cannot operate running on a loss, so they institute maximum age limits to avoid insuring the people that are most at risk of costly medical conditions. Generally this limit tops out at 70 years of age, although some plans go as high as 80. Still yet, there are plans available out there with no maximum age limit on them. As with health insurance at any age, though, the riskier a person is to insure, the higher their premiums are likely to be, so people of advanced age will likely have to pay a hefty cost to remain insured. This can make planning ahead for inflating insurance costs somewhat daunting.

Pre-existing conditions

Another risk factor that insurers are always on the look-out for is pre-existing conditions. This is simply when you have an ongoing medical condition that was present before you obtained your current health insurance policy. In most cases, where not prohibited by law, a private health insurance plan will exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. This means that, while an insurance policy will provide benefits for many illnesses, the specific pre-existing conditions will not be eligible to be covered. Sometimes pre-existing conditions can be covered after the ailment in question has not occurred for a particular period of time – usually a number of years.

To ensure that you never get stuck with having excluded pre-existing conditions, you can simply obtain a policy with a particular insurer, and maintain continuous coverage for as long as possible. However, this can limit your choice of insurance provider. If you develop a condition while on an insurance plan, you will be disincentivized from switching providers, because a new insurer is likely to count the condition as pre-existing.

Life insurance

While it won’t necessarily help you enjoy your retirement, when it comes to planning for the end of your life, life insurance is a must to make sure that your family is well taken care of after your passing.

Other similar insurances to ask your insurance agent about that can help in dire circumstances include critical illness insurance, personal accident insurance, permanent disability insurance and accidental death and dismemberment insurance.

While we will leave the savings and investment to the financial advisers of the world, Pacific Prime China can certainly help those that need assistance in obtaining comprehensive insurance to address medical concerns, as well as avoid burdening their families with financial hardship following a hospitalization or death. Contact us today to be put in touch with a knowledgeable insurance advisor that can answer any questions you may have about China retirement readiness, and provide you with free insurance plan comparisons and price quotes. As a broker we compare prices from a number of the world’s best insurers; saving you the trouble of tracking down multiple quotes from multiple sources.

Posted by Travis Jones in General Insurance, News
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