Economic Impact Of Bird Flu Concerns IMF
The IMF believes it is crucial that we fight to mitigate the economic and human health impact of H5N1 outbreaks. Much more cooperation is needed between nations if we are to have any chance of combating this growing global problem.
Since 2003 over 140 million birds have died as a result of H5N1 bird flu outbreaks. The human death toll is much smaller in comparison, 97. However as the virus spreads and establishes itself around the globe the threat of a mutation and a human pandemic grows. We do not yet have a human pandemic because the H5N1 bird flu virus strain cannot survive when airborne and humans cannot infect other humans easily.
Even though we should be thankful the virus is not easy for humans to catch, many countries have lagged in preparations precisely because of this - the virus is not yet a direct threat to human health.
In a statement, the IMF commented "Perhaps because an avian flu pandemic may appear to be a low-probability event, albeit one with potential high costs, many countries are only starting to develop a comprehensive approach to this threat. While enhancing preparedness will entail upfront cost, the benefits of mitigating the risks associated with a pandemic appear to outweigh these costs."
The IMF says many people would stay away from work if a pandemic started - either because they might be ill or frightened. People would shop less (consumer spending would drop dramatically), trade would go down, tourism would experience serious declines and general economic activity would be extremely weak. Government revenue (globally) would fall, expenditure on health care would rise, many countries would have to spend a lot of money importing drugs to fight the pandemic.
The IMF says financial institutions must act prudently if/when a pandemic hits. Central banks must be ready to help, long-term, in the economic recovery after the pandemic has passed. Every sector of a country's economy would be badly affected by a flu pandemic.
The IMF did not go as far as trying to predict the size of the economic impact on countries or the world - as evolutions in influenza viruses cannot be predicted - any calculation or prediction of numbers would be pure speculation, it added.
Click here to see the IMF document on this.
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