A severe bird flu pandemic among humans could cost the global economy up to $2 trillion, the World Bank said on Sunday, sharply raising earlier estimates.
The comments came as a senior World Health Organisation official said the threat from the H5N1 avian flu virus was just as real today as it was six months ago, even if the headlines were not as scary.
Jim Adams, vice-president for East Asia and the Pacific and head of the Bank’s avian flu taskforce, said a severe pandemic could cost more than three percent of the global economy’s gross national product.
“We estimate this could cost certainly over $1 trillion and perhaps as high as $2 trillion in a worst-case scenario. So the threat, the economic threat, remains real and substantial,” he was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters at the annual IMF-World Bank meetings in Singapore.
He said earlier estimates last year of about $800 billion in economic costs were basically written on the back of an envelope. But more recent financial modelling had revealed a sharper threat should the virus mutate and pass easily among people.
He said it was crucial to develop strong anti-bird flu programmes around the world to strengthen health and veterinarian services as well as improve public education and transparency.
“We have been working in virtually all of the countries, developing countries, that have been affected by an avian flu outbreak, providing advice and financing in the development of projects to tackle the challenge,” he said.