Monday, December 19, 2005

News - Bird flu could cost Canada $12 billion

If an avian flu pandemic spreads to Canada, it could carve as much as 14 billion Canadian dollars (12 billion US dollars) off the country's economy and as many as 6.2 million people could get infected with 133,000 likely to die, financial officials said.

An outbreak could cut as much as 1.2 percent off the country's annual gross domestic product. That may slice almost in half the pace of healthy economic growth, which is expected to grow at an average of 2.8 percent in 2005, Canadian Press reported Monday citing relevant documents.

Certain sectors would be hit harder than others, should a deadly avian flu strain begin to spread from person to person in Canada, the analysis by Finance economists suggests.

Travel and tourism would be obvious early targets but the hospitality and entertainment sectors would also be hit hard as people would likely avoid going out socially and risking infection.

Health experts around the globe are deeply concerned that a pandemic could happen and have been planning for the worst-case scenario.

So far, the virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed at least 71 people in Asia since 2003. Most cases have been linked to contact with infected birds.

Experts have said repeated outbreaks in poultry are increasing the risk the virus could mutate into a form that can spread easily among people, possibly sparking a global pandemic.

Canadian Finance Department officials reviewed several other studies of likely pandemic outcomes, with their calculations largely based on the experience of the 1918 global flu pandemic.

The 1918 outbreak eventually infected half the world's population and killed 40 million people, the vast majority of them between the ages of 20 and 40.

They also considered the economic impacts of flu pandemics in 1957 and 1968, as well as the SARS outbreak in 2003, which killed 44 Canadians and walloped parts of the economy.

Xinhua - English

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