As reported in NewsTarget, consulting firm Bio Economic Research Associates ("bio-era") has published a study suggesting that the economic consequences of avian influenza are spreading faster than the disease itself.
“According to the quantitative measures we developed for assigning relative economic risk exposure to infectious disease outbreaks for countries in Asia, Hong Kong and Singapore are especially vulnerable to the initial economic shock waves that would ensue from a pandemic,” said James Newcomb, Managing Director and principal author of the bio-era report. “However, the secondary impacts on other countries, especially China, could have far-reaching impacts for economies around the world, including the US,” he added.
Other key findings in the report include:
- Avian influenza is the latest in a series of major livestock disease outbreaks that have caused more than $60 billion in economic damages worldwide over the past 15 years (see accompanying figure). The current crisis could accelerate the industrialization of the poultry industry in parts of Asia.
- Concerns about a possible influenza pandemic are already providing stimulus for increased spending and accelerated research and development efforts in some parts of the economy, ranging from custom microarray chips for rapid diagnostic testing to antiviral drugs.
- Governments around the world have recently made commitments totaling an estimated $1.4 billion to stockpile oseltamivir (Tamiflu)—an antiviral drug produced by pharmaceutical giant Roche.
- Manufacturers of flu vaccines are gearing up for what may be an unprecedented global demand for a vaccine effective against H5N1 variants, but it is not known whether the vaccines being developed now would be effective against the influenza strains that might emerge.
- New “DNA vaccines” offer an alternative to conventional production technologies and could speed the vaccine industry’s ability to respond, but these technologies are not yet approved by FDA.
The bio-era study summarizes and interprets the latest science and economic analysis relevant to the current outbreak of Avian influenza (H5N1) in Southeast Asia, including the economic burdens imposed so far by the disease, and the risks and potential business impacts should the current outbreak develop into a global influenza pandemic. “We’ve been looking at how things might unfold under six very different but highly plausible scenarios for the evolution of the outbreak,” said Stephen Aldrich, President of bio-era. “In the process, we’ve made assessments of potential outbreak risk by country, the relative economic exposure by country — and how selected industries and companies are likely to be affected.”