Avian flu caused loss of $10 bn in Asias GDP

New Delhi, March 30 | Updated: Mar 31 2006, 05:30am hrs
Avian flu has caused a loss of about $10 billion in the gross domestic product (GDP) in Asia during December 2003-February 2006, according to the survey done by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). The impact has been more pronounced on small and medium sized farmers.

The Poultry Federation of India has estimated that in February and March this year, due to the localised outbreak of avian flu in India, the loss to the industry stands at Rs 70,000 million. In January-March 2004, when there was no incidence of bird flu in India, the panic alone caused a loss of Rs 30,000 million to the industry.

The UNESCAP report cautioned that if a global pandemic happened due to the highly pathogenic avian influenza becoming transmissible among humans, the loss to the world GDP would amount to $ 200 billion in a single quarter as per the conservative estimates. In the worst case, global economy would plunge into recession.

However, so far there is no evidence of human to human transfer of the bird flu virus. The virus spreads from bird to bird or from bird to animals like pigs or humans.

The report noted that in the period from December 2003 to the beginning of February 2006, 161 people in the Asia-Pacific region had been infected with avian flu, among whom 86 died. About 140 million birds had been culled. No vaccine is currently available to protect humans from avian flu. Anti-viral drugs such as oseltamivir phosphate and zanamivir have proved to be of some use for treating H5N1 (pathogenic avian flu virus) infection.

The number of people who might die in a possible global pandemic if the highly pathogenic virus became transmissible among humans would range from an estimated 5 million to 150 million worldwide. The report called for an urgent need for collective preparedness in the region.