News - The psychological impact of bird flu
More than the actual damages to livelihood and health security, it is the psychological impact of a possible bird-flu outbreak that threatens to cut the Philippines gross domestic product by 23 percentage points if the disease hits the country.
The Asian Development Bank estimated that the Philippines would be the least affected by a bird-flu outbreak, but it stressed that the impact would be long term and the economic costs, staggering.
World Bank shared ADB?s observation, as it noted in its report on the avian flu that ?the most immediate economic impacts of a pandemic might arise not from actual death or sickness but from the uncoordinated efforts of private individuals to avoid becoming infected.?
Citing Asia?s experience during the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the World Bank warned that the economies that would be hit by a pandemic, may grind to a halt, as people try to ?avoid infection by minimizing face-to-face interactions resulting in a severe demand shock for services sectors such as tourism, mass transportation, retail sales, hotels and restaurants.?
The report entitled ?Spread of Avian Flu Could Affect Next Year?s Economic Outlook? also noted that the outbreak could cut to productivity, as employees would refuse to go to work, for fear of contracting the disease, which may force businesses to ?shift to more costly procedure.?
The World Bank warned that ?the costs arising from panic and disruption? may be magnified by ?an initial lack of public information, contributing to a large overestimation by private individuals of the perceived probabilities of infection and death,? as experienced during the SAPS outbreak in some Asian countries.
The multiagency task recently created by President Arroyo has taken into account the need to keep the public well informed of the basic information they need to know about the disease to prevent panic in case of an outbreak.
While the country remains bird-flu free, the multiagency task force, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Domingo Panganiban, has taken steps to prevent the entry of the virus, and to prepare for a worst-case scenario should the disease finds its way intro Philippine territory.
To prevent panic and confusion, Panganiban?s team, which included representatives from the government media group, headed by Secretary Cerge Remonde, set out to embark on a massive information campaign, starting at the grassroots level, top target the first ones to be affected, should the virus hit the country.
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