A report from one of the state’s largest health-care insurers says Iowa’s rate for pneumonia cases was above the national average and the rate for acute bronchitis was very close to the national rate in 2003. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield medical director Mary Davis says they can’t nail down one reason for the high rates. She says there are a lot of environmental factors that make a difference, such as if you have a lot of smokers, they’re more susceptible. People with chronic illnesses, those exposed to pollutants, those who live in crowded conditions are all more susceptible, and you also have to factor in the strength of the floor virus in communities. Doctor Davis says they need to find out more information to find out why pneumonia and bronchitis have been such a problem. She says there are communities right next to each other in Iowa and South Dakota that have very different rates of the diseases, even though they’re right next to each other and there’s no physical barrier between them. She says looking at the variation is important as they ask the question about why there’s a problem in each community. The report shows it cost just over 19-million dollars to treat pneumonia and acute bronchitis. The report says acute bronchitis is more prevalent, but it costs more to treat pneumonia because it often requires hospitalization. Davis says acute bronchitis and pneumonia often follow a viral upper respiratory infection like the common cold or flu. She says there’s an easy way to prevent it. She says, “Don’t touch your mouth, don’t touch your eyes and wash your hands. Those are the most important things you can do to try and avoid influenza.” Dr. Davis says you can also protect yourself in the workplace. She says, “You might want to stay away from co-workers who don’t cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze. And people who’re ill ought stay home for a least a couple days so that the virus they’re shedding isn’t quite so prevalent.” According to the Wellmark report, the statewide pneumonia rate was 28 per one thousand people, compared to the national rate of 18 per one thousand. Carroll, Denison, Red Oak, Washington and Webster City had the highest episodes of pneumonia. The highest pneumonia hospitalization rates occurred for Newton, Fort Madison, Spencer, Fort Dodge and Webster City. Iowa’s acute bronchitis rate was 71 per one thousand people, as compared to the national rate of 73 per one thousand. Clinton, Greenfield, Newton, Sac City and Webster City had the highest episodes of acute bronchitis.
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