Pandemic Flu: Potential for U.S. Economic Recession
We have heard the estimates that the attacks of September 11, 2001 cost the terrorists about $500,000 to execute. Yet the effects, both immediate and afterward, were devastating. The value of the human lives lost on September 11th is truly incalculable.
As heartless as it may seem, the authors of a study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Measuring the Effects of the September 11 Attack on New York City, estimated that the lost lifetime wages of the nearly 3,000 victims would have aggregately reached $7.8 billion. Simply looking at the dollar cost of the attacks of September 11th, it has been estimated that more than $30 billion was spent in earnings losses, property damage, and cleanup costs. According to another report by the NY Fed, spending for homeland security rose from $56.0 billion in 2001 to $99.5 billion in 2005.
This is all dwarfed by the estimated impact on the U.S. economy of the second worst recession that would occur in the event of a severe pandemic flu outbreak. According to a recently released report, Pandemic Flu and Potential for U.S. Economic Recession released in Trust for America's Health (TFAH)'s March 2007 report, U.S. GDP could drop over 5.5 percent, leading to an estimated $683 billion loss. While there continue to be questions about the spread of Avian Flu, it was also recently discovered that two “small mutations” could result in H5N1 jumping to humans.
The TFAH report opens stating flatly that "Flu pandemics occur 3 to 4 times each century, when a new influenza virus emerges against which people have little-to-no immunity. The major questions are when the next pandemic will occur, what strain of the virus will be involved, and how severe the outbreak will be." It makes clear that a new flu pandemic outbreak is inevitable, historically speaking.