Bird flu toll could top 140 million, report warns

16th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

16 February 2006, SYDNEY - Bird flu could kill as many as 142 million people and knock out one-eighth of the world economy, according to a "worst case" scenario of the possible consequences of an avian influenza epidemic outlined by Australian experts Thursday.

16 February 2006

SYDNEY - Bird flu could kill as many as 142 million people and knock out one-eighth of the world economy, according to a "worst case" scenario of the possible consequences of an avian influenza epidemic outlined by Australian experts Thursday.

The study, commissioned by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute think tank, was released as Germany and Austria were added to the list of countries where the deadly H5N1 virus has been identified in dead birds.

The H5N1 virus is known to have infected 140 people around the world and killed 70. While the virus has been passed from birds to humans, there is no recorded incidence of the "nightmare scenario" of the virus being passed from human to human.

The authors of the report, internationally renowned economic modeller Warwick McKibbin and fellow Australian National University academic Alexandra Sidorenko, estimate that even a mild pandemic could kill 1.4 million people and cost the global economy 330 billion US dollars in lost production.

Australia, along with other rich countries, has stockpiled millions of doses of antiviral drugs to combat an epidemic.

The report warned that developing effective drugs was problematic because of the "need to hit the constantly moving target as the virus mutates very rapidly."

It put the worst-case death toll at 28.4 million in China, 24 million in India, 11.4 million in Indonesia, 4.1 million in the Philippines, 2.1 million in Japan, 2 million in the United States and 5.6 million in Europe.

The poorest countries would be the worst hit, accounting for 33 million of the global total.

The Asia-Pacific region would be disproportionately affected, the report said, with the possibility of the Hong Kong economy being more than halved in value.

"The large scale collapse of Asia causes global trade flows to dry up and capital to flow to safe havens in North America and Europe," the Lowy Institute report said.

Modelling by the Health Department released last year suggested there could be 13,000 deaths, 58,000 hospitalisations and 2.7 million people seeking medical attention if the pandemic reached Australia. The new report said up to 214,000 Australians could die - more than twice the number of Australians who have died in combat around the world.

DPA

Subject: German news

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