Indian medical tourism bringing infections into US, says health official

India has one of the fastest growing medical tourism industries in the world and the country receives a significant number of patients from the US. But America isn’t pleased.

A leading health official in the US administration recently told the Congress that medical tourism in the subcontinent was responsible for bringing infections into the US.

“We have a problem in India,” Dr Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, United States, told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing recently, as per PTI. “We have been getting infections, particularly carbapenem-resistant enterobacteria, ACA and others, through people who go there, for example, on medical tourism and then come back to our hospitals. We now have problems with things that have originated elsewhere.”

“So, we feel we have the responsibility to help them over there. Anytime you have a resistant microbe that emerges in another country, inevitably it will come to the United States,” Fauci added.

Fauci was replying to a query posed at the Congressional hearing on Biodefense and Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases.

Over the years, India has transformed itself into an attractive medical tourism hub. India’s visa policy is patient-friendly and this is one of the factors contributing to the growth of medical tourism, which is expected to touch $8 billion by 2020. The presence of English-speaking professionals who can provide quality care is an added bonus.

But the primary reason why a foreigner would chose India is affordability. For instance, a treatment that would cost $130,000 in the US can be availed in India for just $10,000.

Although there are no official statistics on the number of Americans going to India for medical purposes, a survey cited by state that more than 300,000 US nationals go abroad each year for health care. In 2016, India issued more than 1.78 lakh medical visas as against 1.22 lakh in 2015.

Medical tourists to India usually seek heart, liver and bone marrow transplants, joint replacement surgeries, spine and brain surgeries and cancer and kidney treatments.