Bird Flu Could Pose
Enormous Threat
To US Economy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A human outbreak of bird flu in the United States could deal a $675 billion blow to the economy, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Thursday, citing a new study by the Congressional Budget Office.
Frist said the study assumed a 2.5 percent mortality rate, that 30 percent of the population would be infected and that employees would miss three weeks of work.
"A nearly $700 billion hit to our economy -- almost half of which is brought on by fear and confusion -- gives us every reason to begin preparing a prescription and implementing a course of action today, Frist said in a statement.
The economic loss estimated by the study would amount to a 5 percent reduction in gross domestic product, he said.
Frist released the statement at a National Press Club appearance to discuss the bird flu threat.
The H5N1 avian influenza virus is spreading steadily among poultry, pushing westward out of Asia into Europe.
Health officials fear it will mutate, become easily transmitted among humans and spread rapidly around the world, killing tens of millions of people.
The virus is known to have infected just 135 people since 2003 but has killed more than half of them.
President Bush has asked Congress to allocate $7.1 billion to fund his administration,s bird flu plan, but no measure has passed.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
Patricia Doyle, PhD
Hello, Jeff - As I stated so many times previously, IF we can get farmers, the poultry induistry as well as game bird industry (those raising cock fighting birds in Asia) et al, to identify cases, report and contain in timely fashion there would be little risk of human outbreak.
In Asia, parts of Eastern Europe and Africa many families have backyard flocks. So, many of these families cannot afford to lose their poultry and this is why so many family and small scale farmers have hid the disease. Cock fighting is another problem. In Asia, such fighting is a popular pastime and owners refuse to admit cases of bird flu as they don't want to lose their birds.
If bird flu, H5N1, is confirmed in Zimbabwe, and other parts of Africa, we will have a problem getting people with family or small scale flocks to admit any infections. To many families, their poultry is all they have. Will some of the African nations, like Zimbabwe, compensate farmers for bird losses?
Doubtful. The regime of Robert Mugabe has been anything but enlightened.
Until we can get 100% cooperation between farmers, governments and international organizations like the WHO, the prospect of timely containment of bird flu looks gloomy. IF we do not contain the outbreak we may see the flu mutate into a human-to-human sustained transmission influenza.
There are things US coporations can do to help mitigate economic hardship. Companies can plan for some employees to work from home using computer networks and phones. Companies may even want to stagger business hours helping to reduce the crowding of people in offices.
Workers can also use some "common sense" methods to try to stay flu-free. Keeping a spray bottle of chlorox for use on phones, keyboards etc. People may choose to use surgical gloves when touching communal areas like door knobs and elevator buttons. Frequent hand washing also important as well as normal "etiquette" of using a tissue when sneezing, using a tissue when coughing, etc, etc.
A little planning now by Corporations might just lessen the economic fallout of influenza.
Patricia A. Doyle, DVM, PhD- Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural Economics
Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board at:
Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
Go with God and in Good Health




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