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The Economic Impacts of a Pandemic

Today, Ebola represents a serious threat to public health. But, of course, epidemics and pandemics have always existed. Nearly every country has experienced at least one epidemic since the year 2000. H1N1, SARS, Cholera, Yellow fever were devastating diseases for entire populations. To date the Ebola outbreak has resulted in more than 4500 deaths in West Africa alone. But we should also remember that the black plague during the XIV and XV centuries killed 40% of Europeans. And the 1918-19 influenza epidemic killed at least 45 million people worldwide. But let us focus on the economic impacts. Just fear of a pandemic can entail substantial costs to the economy. The World Bank experts, with reference to an Ebola outbreak, estimate a potential economic loss for the economy to USD 32.6 billion by the end of 2015, if the epidemic spreads into neighboring countries beyond Liberia and Guinea. In the case of SARS , the Asian countries were severly affected and lost about USD 30 billion, mostly in the tourism and aviation sectors. A global pandemic which would last more than a year could lead to a major global recession. A pandemic such as the Spanish flu in 1918-19 would cost today to the world economy more than USD 3 trillion. The World Bank also stressed that the majority of the economic losses would come from the efforts to avoid infection: reducing air travel and consumption of services such as tourism, mass transport, non essential retail shopping etc...In addition to that a pandemic will hit the economic workforce of key countries throughout the world. It is a fact that the internationalization of trade and the dramatic increase in travel and tourism make this combat more difficult. So we hope that someday scientists and health authorities will be able to anticipate the outbreak of epidemics and pandemics in order to better manage their human and economic cosequences.

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