Insurers to take Zika outbreak ‘in stride’

Insurers to take Zika outbreak ‘in stride’

Insurers to take Zika outbreak ‘in stride’ The insurance market is expected to take the recent Zika virus outbreak ‘in stride’ as the number of those infected continues to rise, one leader has said.

At the time of writing, 242 cases of Zika have been reported in Singapore, according to CNBC, and Andre Czanik, chief health officer of AXA Singapore told Insurance Business that the industry will be able to cope with the outbreak.

“I think this is something that the insurance market will take in stride. There is an opportunity here for consumers, if they are concerned about this, to make sure they have the right product that covers all eventualities,” Czanik said.

“Most will cover the acute manifestations; very few will cover the congenital abnormalities.”

Zika is asymptomatic in the vast majority of cases, meaning those infected show no symptoms. Flu-like symptoms can arise in some and Czanik noted that these “acute manifestations” will be covered by the majority of insurers in Singapore.

“We don’t expect the impact from the acute manifestations for the insurance market to be significant,” Czanik continued.

Czanik said that the Singapore government and health insurers will learn lessons from previous outbreaks of dengue fever and flu-like viruses in the country but the industry does not expect “a massive spike in acute manifestations.”

Certain products in the market will cover the more serious birth defects that are linked with Zika virus and its impact on expectant women but Czanik said that the virus presents brokers, agents and insurers with an opportunity to allay the fears of clients and customers.

As more is learned about the spread of the virus in Singapore, Czanik noted that worries will subside as the overwhelming number of Zika cases result in no, or very limited, illness.

Dr Olivier Eap, regional medical director at AXA Assistance Asia Pacific, told Insurance Business that the number of those infected will continue to rise in Singapore as the virus may be present in other Asia Pacific nations.

“We are quite sure that the virus is quietly present in other countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and  Thailand. However, most of the time when you are infected by this virus you will be asymptomatic, meaning you will have no symptoms,” Dr Eap said.

“There is obviously a need to control the spread of the virus and the Minister of Health in Singapore is very efficient in controlling this kind of situation but still there is a concern that this virus could spread further, mainly because many people are not aware that they have been infected.”

The Government has been praised by the World Health Organisation for its proactive approach to tackling the outbreak as work continues to limit the spread of the virus.

With SARS and H1N1 fresh in the memory of many, Czanik said that health insurers in the region can help by educating clients about the virus and its risks as facts on the ground will be vital to calming anxious customers.

“The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites,” Dr Eap continued.

“Repellent would be the best way, of course, and we can advise people to wear long sleeved shirts, long pants, stay where there is air conditioning, and install door and window screens, so that mosquitos will not be able to bite you.”

For more information on the outbreak, visit the Ministry of Health website.


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