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Bird flu kills Thai boy; reports paint bleak picture in US
Updated: 2005-12-09 15:37


In the United States, a report from New Jersey based WBB Securities LLC predicted a pandemic there could cause a one-year economic loss of $488 billion and a permanent economic loss of $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy.

The World Bank has predicted a pandemic could cost the global economy $800 billion a year. U.S. President George W. Bush released a $7.1 billion bird flu plan in November but Congress has yet to fund it.

If the virus mutates into a form which passes between humans, it would likely closely resemble the 1918 pandemic strain of flu that killed anywhere between 20 million and 100 million people during World War One, separate reports released on Thursday by the WBB and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said.

This means 30 percent of the population would be infected and more than 2 percent would die, the report from the CBO said.

"Further, CBO assumed that those who survived would miss three weeks of work, either because they were sick, because they feared the risk of infection at work, or because they needed to care of family or friends," the report reads.

Hospitals would have difficulty controlling infection and might become sources for spreading the illness, the CBO said -- a fear echoed by another group, the National Center for Policy Analysis.

The WBB report estimated 35 percent of the population would become ill and 5 percent would die.

"If the influenza affected humans at the same level of virulence as the current H5N1 strain, practically all patients would require hospitalization, which would result in a shortage of some 6.5 million hospital beds per day during the pandemic," the WBB report reads.

In a boost for countries seeking the antiviral drug Tamiflu, one of four drugs known to work against influenza, manufacturer Roche reached agreements with two U.S. generic drugmakers, as well as 13 other drug producers, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said on Thursday.

The agreements are meant to allow more production of the drug, known generically as oseltamivir, in case of an avian flu pandemic, Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement.

Countries are seeking to stockpile the drug but all are many million doses short of what would be needed to treat a pandemic.

Last month, the company said Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines were free to begin making their own versions of the pill because it does not have patent protection in those countries.

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