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€2bn: Cost of bird flu outbreak

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  • €2bn: Cost of bird flu outbreak

    €2bn: Cost of bird flu outbreak

    By Conor Keane, Business Editor
    THE Irish economy faces a €2 billion productivity loss if the country is hit by a bird flu pandemic, a study reveals.

    Yesterday British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh urged Irish businesses to prepare themselves for a bird flu pandemic.

    “The threat of a flu pandemic is very real, so it is vital that businesses put the necessary controls in place now through proper continuity planning,” he said.

    “British Airways has taken this threat seriously by creating a business continuity plan for pandemic influenza, and I would recommend that Irish businesses do the same,” he added.

    Mr Walsh was the keynote speaker at a breakfast briefing entitled: The economic impact of an influenza pandemic — is your business prepared?, which was hosted in Dublin.

    An economic impact assessment, commissioned by Roche Products (Ireland), to be published in the coming weeks, estimates the cost of productivity loss to employers due to the effects of pandemic influenza on the working population. This appraisal indicates a potential loss to the economy of 2bn during a severe influenza pandemic.

    Consultant in infectious diseases at Cork University Hospital Dr Mary Horgan updated attendees on the current status of influenza and the need to stockpile antivirals.

    “The World Health Organisation has been monitoring the H5N1 strain of influenza [bird flu] for a number of years. This virus already has the ability to transfer from birds to humans, and we feel that it is only a matter of time before it or a variant can be transmitted easily from human-to-human,” she said.

    Economist David McWilliams, who chaired the event, said he was shocked to hear that a bird flu pandemic in Ireland could be so severe, with the potential to cause such losses among employers.

    “It doesn’t take an economist to tell you that such a loss would have a major impact on business and the Irish economy,” he added.

    The National Pandemic Influenza Plan and Advice for Pandemic Influenza published in January 2007 estimates that over a 15-week pandemic there would be a hospitalisation rate of between 0.55% and 3.70% and a case fatality rate of between 0.37% and 2.50%.