An Avian flu pandemic could kill 3 million people in Asia, economically setting the continent back by almost $300 billion, causing a recession in the world, the Asian Development Bank has warned.
The bank examined in a report the likely effects on the region if bird flu produces a human pandemic that hacks consumer demand, with millions of workers being taken ill. 'Growth in Asia would virtually stop,' it said. The economic impact would likely force the world into a recession.
China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand would likely be hit hardest by the pandemic, the bank predicted.
In its grimmest scenario, where the impact of a pandemic lasts a year, Asia could lose $282.7 billion — or 6.5 percent of gross domestic product — in consumption, trade and investment, the bank said in its report. Workers' incapacity and death could cost another $14.2 billion.
The scenario assumes about 20 percent of Asia's population would fall ill, and 0.5 percent of them would die.
If the psychological impact of an outbreak lasted 6 months, the cost to Asia in lost consumption, trade and investment would be about $99 billion, the report said in a less pessimistic scenario.
In a separate report, the bank said bird flu was already harming several East Asian economies. Costs so far have been limited — around 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent of gross domestic product in Vietnam — but could rise significantly, the bank said.
Milan Brahmbhatt, author of the report, said a human pandemic caused by bird flu could cost the world economy as much as $800 billion.
The reports came as governments stepped up cooperation to prepare a global response to the risk that the bird flu virus that has swept through Asia and entered Europe could mutate into a form transmissible between people and produce a pandemic that could kill millions.
Vietnamese scientists said they were ready to begin testing a new flu vaccine on human volunteers when they receive permission from the government, following an $18 million allocation from Washington this week as part of U.S. preparations for a pandemic.
Thuy said her company began working on a vaccine last year and tests on chickens and monkeys produced promising results. Scientists are waiting for permission from the Ministry of Health to begin testing on human volunteers.
China and Vietnam have prohibited poultry imports from countries with bird flu outbreaks. Vietnam has suffered more than 40 of the 62 confirmed human deaths from bird flu in Asia since 2003, while China has had three outbreaks in birds in recent weeks but no human cases.
Most of the deaths from bird flu have been linked to close contact with infected birds, but experts fear the deadly H5N1 virus devastating flocks in Asia and pockets of eastern Europe could mutate into a form easily spread from person to person and have called for increased prevention worldwide.