Report: Avian flu would sicken economy

March 22, 2007 at 2:38 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 22 (UPI) -- A severe flu outbreak could put a huge dent the U.S. economy, according to a new study.

The U.S. gross domestic product could drop by nearly 6 percent, a $683 billion loss, says a report by the Trust for America's Health, a non-profit group that focuses on disease prevention.

"The U.S. is not prepared to face an economic shock of this magnitude," said Jeff Levi, executive director of the group.

In the advent of a flu pandemic on the scale of the deadly 1918 flu outbreak, 90 million Americans could be sickened and 2.2 million could die, the report says. That would result in many workers staying home from work and reduced consumer demand for products and services.

States with economies built around tourism would be most affected, the authors said. Nevada's economy faces the greatest loss, about 8 percent of state's total economy. Hawaii would be next, with a potential 6.6 percent loss.

Alaska, Wyoming, Nebraska and Louisiana were also predicted to see their economies shrink by more than 6 percent. But every state stands to lose more than 5 percent of GDP, the study concluded.

Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia -- because their economies are concentrated in government -- face the lowest predicted economic losses, the study's authors said.

Public preparedness efforts have focused on the health effects of pandemic flu, but the economic impact should not be ignored, Levi said.

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