Although national health insurance program covers many medical costs for Taiwanese families, the peripheral costs for parents with a child suffering from gastroenteritis are still high, the Child Promotion Society (CPS) said today.
In an effort to promote preventive medicine, CPS President Lee Hung-chang quoted a recent study conducted by five hospitals in Taiwa by saying that each acute gastroenteritis infection costs parents about NT$12,527 (US$391).
These costs include NT$6,983 (US$218) in medical-related expenditure, followed by lost salary and transport costs at NT$4,752 and NT$792, respectively.
The research, conducted in northern, central and southern Taiwan from March to June 2010, targeted 120 sets of parents who had had a child hospitalized with gastroenteritis for at least one day before the age of 3 years.
According to Lee, who is also a pediatrician at Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei, rotavirus is the leading cause of gastroenteritis. It enters the body through contaminated food or drink and due to its highly contagious properties, other family members can also be infected. He cited a case in which seven members of a single family, including grandparents, parents and siblings, were all infected.
Each year, 270,000 children under 5 years of age in Taiwan suffer from rotavirus gastroenteritis, 18,000 of whom require hospital treatment.
He suggested that parents follow a "three often, two must" set of guidelines to prevent infection during the winter months when lower temperatures facilitate viral transmission.
The guidelines urge parents to wash their children's hands, disinfect their surroundings and keep children's eating utensils separate as much as possible, while ventilation openings must be kept clear of obstruction and infants must be vaccinated against rotavirus.
Symptoms of rotavirus gastroenteritis include profuse diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain. Although most children are infected with the disease at least once in childhood, some cases are more severe than others and require immediate treatment, said Lee.