Experts Say Avian Flu

The World Bank said diminishing demand and a loss of workers due to a human version of the illness will cost industrialized nations alone $550 billion. Those same countries are not targeting measures against the disease correctly, pointed out the United Nation's Food & Agriculture Organization said.

"The most immediate economic impact is not from death or sickness, but because of uncoordinated efforts to avoid infection," Milan Brahmbhatt, the World Bank's chief east Asian economist, was quoted as saying in a speech today at meeting of health officials in Geneva. "This impacts the demand side in terms of the transport and retail sectors and restaurants, and there's also a supply shock from absenteeism at work."

Brahmbhatt said the $10 billion in lost trade already attributable to the disease would be significantly overshadowed if the virus can jump species to humans.

President George W. Bush's $7.1 billion bird flu plan, unveiled last week, centers on responding to a domestic outbreak rather than eliminating the disease. The WHO has said that best-case pandemic scenarios, modeled on the mild pandemic of 1968, project global deaths of 2-7.4 million. Other estimates, which factor in a more virulent virus, estimate much higher numbers, the WHO said.

In the past, ID Access has quoted experts and distributors as saying that U.S. food regulatory procedures are strong enough to keep the disease from crossing into the United States today. However, the situation needs to be monitored almost daily as more occurrences develop overseas.


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