Tuesday, June 27, 2006




An adviser to the Australian government has estimated that an avian influenza epidemic, even one with only a fraction of the severity of the 1919 outbreak, would kill 40,000 poeople and shrink the economy by almost 7 percent.

Healthy adults aged 19 to 45 were among the hardest hit by the 1919 flu epidemic, which struck randomly, without regard to geography, climate or economic development.

But the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics says good health infrastructure and services could reduce the death rates.

Australia and other developed countries could lose 0.2 per cent of their total population, while 1.4 per cent of the population of developing countries would die.

ABARE estimates bird flu would kill 280 million people around the world. If the outbreak were as severe as the 1919 epidemic, between 180 million and 360 million would die.

Australia's proximity to Asia means its economy would suffer more severely than that of the US or Europe. ABARE estimates the Chinese economy would contract by 8.7 per cent, while the ASEAN economies would shrink by 7.1 per cent.

Even if Australia were successful in keeping bird flu out of the country, it would suffer a 3per cent fall in its economy as other nations were hit.

From The Australian :

...a medium level outbreak could cut Australia's gross domestic product (GDP) – currently $880 billion a year – by 6.8 per cent over the short term.

The Federal Government has been preparing the nation in case of an outbreak of the avian influenza, which has been spreading across the globe.

About 50 million surgical masks and 40 million syringes have been stockpiled, along with mass quantities of antiviral drugs including Tamiflu, widely regarded as the best drug for combating the disease.

In its June quarter report, the national forecaster says it believes a full-blown global pandemic would have reverberations across the country, with Queensland likely to feel the biggest economic consequences.

Any outbreak would affect a number of sectors, including transport services, such as air flights, which could face up to an 11 per cent decline, and tourism-related activities, which could potentially drop 18 per cent.

Its effect would begin in workplaces, which would start losing staff as people became ill or were put in quarantine, resulting in growing productivity losses.

The same report warns that, "in an extreme case", the Australian economy would not only be severely affected, it might actually breakdown :

"Effective measures would be required to ensure that, for example, the financial system and other key services were able to continue to operate in the face of a pandemic."

The final economic impact would be the effect of the disease on future consumption and investment patterns.

"They are difficult to quantify and in general the studies that indicate a major economic impact from a pandemic are the ones that assume substantial confidence effects," ABARE said.

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