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The Costs and Burden of Infectious Diseases


Costs Are Not Well Understood

Infectious diseases such as cholera and dengue have devastating consequences for the people and economies they affect, yet these and other tropical diseases often receive little attention and funding because the real costs are not well understood.

Disease costs are measured in a number of ways: by the effect of disease on people’s health and quality of life, in dollars spent on healthcare interventions, and in lost productivity. Because infectious diseases cause widespread illness and death, often among young healthy people, they can sap limited resources in underdeveloped and developing countries that may be ill-equipped to absorb the immediate costs of an outbreak and/or the long-term costs of endemic disease.

Global Economic Burden of Dengue and Cholera: IDCC Estimates
Cholera cost pie chartDengue cost pie chart

Costs Are Difficult to Estimate

Infectious diseases impose economic burdens that are difficult to estimate. Estimates require data on the direct expenses associated with inpatient and outpatient health care, as well as data on economic damages associated with lost productivity when wage earners fall ill, are permanently lost to the workforce, or are prevented from ever entering it.

Those data can be hard to come by. Case data are disparate and varied and must be collected from multiple sources; economic cost calculations are difficult because of the multiple factors at play.

Without the ability to calculate the economic burden of disease, health ministers and other public health and political leaders are not able to make fully informed decisions regarding the most effective and cost-effective interventions for preventing or mitigating the effects of infectious diseases.

Important to note is that the costs presented in the IDCC are based on and limited to currently available data and may not account for other costs due to endemic disease, such as lost tourism revenue and other economic activity. As such, the costs presented here represent a lower bound and likely underestimate the true cost of the disease.

Go to Cholera Cost Model | Go to Dengue Cost Model