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'Bird flu may cause global economic mayhem'
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-08-19 05:57

Canadian financial analysts predicted that an avian flu pandemic would have dire consequences on the global economy, its impact comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

A Vietnamese poultry seller displays ducks for sale at a wholesale poultry market in Hanoi, Vietnam, August 9, 2005.
A Vietnamese poultry seller displays ducks for sale at a wholesale poultry market in Hanoi, Vietnam, August 9, 2005. [Reuters]
In a first-of-its-kind report on the financial impact of a possible pandemic, BMO Nesbitt Burns researchers warned that an outbreak could devastate the airline and hospitality industries, trigger mass foreclosures and bankruptcies, decimate insurance companies, and disrupt food chains as people switched from animal to vegetable diets all costing hundreds of billions of dollars.

"Its economic impact could be comparable, at least for a short time, to the Great Depression of the 1930s," said BMO chief economist Sherry Cooper, noting that the report, dubbed "An Investor's Guide to Avian Flu," "is not meant to be alarmist" since an avian flu pandemic is unlikely to occur anytime soon and would only last a few months.

Influenza A type H5N1 was first discovered in terns in South Africa in 1961. The first known human infections were in Hong Kong in 1997 when six of 18 people infected died.

Bird flu has killed 61 people across Asia, 42 of them in Viet Nam, since late 2003, and ravaged poultry stocks in the region as well as in parts of Russia and Kazakhstan.

Health experts have warned that the bird flu virus could spark a global pandemic if it develops the ability to spread quickly among humans.
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