World Bank: Bird Flu Pandemic Could Cost $800 Billion

Posted on November 7, 2005

It is hard to blame to media for being sensationalistic when the World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Lee Jong-wook says the magnitude of the suffering could be "incalcuable" and the World Bank brings up cost figures like $800 billion. The Globe and Mail reported on both these comments in a recent article.
The magnitude of suffering caused by the next human flu pandemic will be "incalculable" if the world is unprepared, the chief of the UN health agency said Monday as he urged countries to draw up plans for preparations.

At the first major international co-ordination meeting on bird flu, a senior World Bank economist said that if the financial fallout of the SARS outbreak two years ago is any indication, a flu pandemic could cause world gross domestic product to drop by 2 per cent or more. That would amount to about $800-billion (U.S.) in losses over the course of a year, said Milan Brahmbhatt.
The Global and Mail article also reported that the WHO estimates the number that could be killed by a pandemic is over 7 million -- which is lower than some of the other estimates that have been out there.
Estimates of the number of people who would die in a new pandemic have varied widely between two million and 360 million, but WHO says a reasonable maximum would be 7.4 million.
7 million would be far less than the 50-100 million killed by the 1918 influenza pandemic at a time when the world's population was much less than it stands today.

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