WASHINGTON: Medical tourism, especially in a country like India, has been bringing its own sets of infection into the United States, a top health official has told lawmakers here.
"We have a problem in India. 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," Dr Anthony S Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing last week.
He was responding to a question on Biodefense and Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases held by the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.
"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.
Dr Fauci, however, did not elaborate further on the nature and quantity of infections coming from India.
"Anti-microbial resistance is an integral part of what we call biodefence against emerging infections, because we do consider an antibiotic-resistant bacteria as an emerging infectious disease," he said.
Congresswoman Rosa Delauro, ranking member of the subcommittee, said there was a wide spectrum of threats facing the US.
"We need enough laboratory capacity to analyse large volumes of samples and determine what pathogens are involved.
We need effective plans, supplies and personnel to efficiently distribute and dispense vaccines and treatments," the lawmaker said.
"We need the surge capacity in hospitals and other facilities to take care of large numbers of seriously ill patients.
All this work needs to be done through partnership among federal agencies like the CDC, the state and the local health departments, and the medical and first responder communities," she said.