BBC BLOGS - Stephanomics
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
« Previous | Main | Next »

Economic impact of swine flu

Post categories:

Stephanie Flanders | 11:34 UK time, Thursday, 30 April 2009

There's so much we don't know about the swine flu story - the potential economic impact is just one of them.

People with masks on

Many in the markets and elsewhere are now trying to estimate what the eventual economic cost of the outbreak might be. It's safe to say that none of them has a clue.

The scary starting point for these calculations is a study by the World Bank last year, which suggested that another truly global flu epidemic would end up costing nearly 5% of world GDP - or more than $3 trillion.

That's assuming a pandemic on the scale of the 1918 "Spanish Flu" outbreak, which infected around one third of the world's population and killed 50 million. Helpfully, the report concludes that a hit of this magnitude would throw the world into a depression.

Of course, that could happen. But experts who know more about viruses than I do (not a small list*) are still suggesting that the chances of such a catastrophe are small. We do have anti-viral drugs now that weren't available. And, they tell me, some version of flu already infects tens of millions of people a year, killing at least half a million of them, without leading to a pandemic on that scale.

What about the more recent, and less alarming, example of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) in China and Hong Kong? That killed more than 700 people in 2003, and (according to the Asia Development Bank) cost the region between $18bn and $60bn in lost output - or 0.5-2.0% of regional GDP.

Many say it will be less this time, because the world is better prepared. And this virus seems a bit easier to treat. I'll leave that to others to judge.

But as Julian Jessop, chief international economist at Capital Economics, points out, even in the Sars case the costs turned out to much less than initially feared. If you look at the retail sales data in China it's a blip, but nothing more than that. A lot of the initial fall was made up later, when people made the purchases that they had previously put off.

Ill-informed optimism is no better than ill-informed gloom. But if we are looking at something on the scale of the Sars issue now, my guess is that the same will be true this time. The costs will be less than some now fear.

Some have said that the impact will be greater, because the global economy is already in such a fragile state. At first glance that seems sensible - you could say that our global economic immune system is in a weak state to shrug this illness off.

But I suspect the opposite is true, that the economic costs of this virus might actually be less than it would otherwise have been, because some of the output that might have been lost to flu has already been lost to the recession.

To put it bluntly, if unemployed people are forced to stay at home for a few weeks, that has a smaller economic cost than if they were all in work. And if people are already going out less to restaurants, cinemas and the like, the fall in consumption due to flu may be smaller than it would have been as well.

Of course, you can't push this argument too far - any pandemic that killed millions of the working age population would have an enormous long-term impact on our potential output, regardless of whether they happened to be out of work when they died.

I fear this blog is turning into a parody of economic analysis at times like this, as I debate the finer economic points of a potential humanitarian catastrophe. But after all, this is a blog about economics.

Assuming that this is more a Sars style outbreak, with widespread but short-term disruption to normal economic activity rather than millions of deaths, it is possible that the impact - in the midst of recession - will be less visible than it would have been a few years ago.

But don't get me wrong, with the global economy as weak as it is, it would be far, far better not to be facing this threat at all.

* as evidenced by an earlier version of this post, which wrongly specified a particular version of the flu. Apologies.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Maybe we can get away from so much globalisation and industry/buisness begins to realise that an effect in another country where there may be a greater impact will impact on them as they cannot get there goods as they are made thousands of miles away.

    I tried to repair a rechargable drill the charging contacts had broken, but you cannot get any of the components in this country its all in chinam say and they do not ship the parts to this country, so you have to throw it away into another land fill etc. All for 2p worth of a part.

    Globalisation has forced use to be a throw away economic society which is at odds to the perception of the re-cyling green society that some want.

    I can repair my Truimph TR7 (car) and Triumph TR6 (bike) as they where made in UK 30+ years ago, and even the Humber Super Snipe (1960) as the bit'n'bobs where made in UK and some are still on a low scale.

    But for the future this is large problem for anyone wanting to have a green future

    So maybe swine flu and the threat of a pandemic might force buisness to re-evaluate globalisation a bit and it concentrations of power money and production.

    Globalisation maybe the Achilies Heal of the Human Race as it become even more depend on science to come up with a very very quick fix to a flu, maybe so they will create a super-flu that cannot be treated much like the mixy for rabbits.

    Gaia is much more poweful than many understand. ;-)

  • Comment number 2.

    Stephanie; The economic consequences of a full blown Pandemic could be disasterious to the worlds economies as demonstrated by this Brookings Institute Study. Global Macroeconomic Consequences of Pandemic Influenza

    http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2006/02development_mckibbin.aspx

    Scary Stuff

  • Comment number 3.

    Hmmm... I hope this doesn't sound harsh - more trying to keep a bit of a sense of perspective on the whole thing - but surely the people who are best able to contribute to the economy are the same people who are most likely to survive a bout of the flu ? Okay, some people would have to be taking time off work - but what would they be doing in the current climate ?

    Making cars that no-one is buying ? Staying home from shopping when they haven't got any spare cash ? The idea that this will have a double whammy effect, or to use that fatuous hyperbole 'be a perfect storm' is over-cooking it a bit, in my opinion.

    Of course, all this can be stopped if the media genuinely try hard to engender panic through hyperbole - and negate the shoulder-shrugging inertia of people into a genuine 'We are going to die !' over-reaction.

    Then we could see an impact on the economy...







    p.s. Just think, if this 'mexican flu' had happened a couple of years ago, and a lot of those bank employees selling loans and credit cards had a few weeks or months off work, it could actually have had a beneficial effect. All this 'hype' about how hard we are supposed to work and what a tragedy it is if we don't is just that. Hype. We are only spending money we don't have on things we don't need. Taking our feet off the throttle for a slightly more sustainable growth pattern would have negated the need for vast deficits and huge borrowing now.

  • Comment number 4.

    I really believe the reporting on this issue is far too heavy and for whatever reason, designed to create unnecessary fear. Any death is a tragedy but the numbers involved so far are by global standards, very small. Malaria kills one million a year but when was the last report on this disease? Any adverse impact on the economy is more likely to be caused by media hype than from the outbreak of swine flu.

  • Comment number 5.

    Every cloud has a silver lining. I wonder what the share price of the makers and developers of Relenza and Tamiflu are doing - see Hoffman La Roche / Gilead / GSK.

  • Comment number 6.

    I was wandering what you thoughts are on the economic effects of a flu pandemic on healthcare and social welfare in the UK? Assuming that as with most infections the old and young are effected the worst wouldn't a flu pandemic remove a large segment of the uneconomically productive part of society that takes up the vast majority of resources, especially in healthcare and has been creating an increasing tax burdon. Could a humanatarian disaster such as this ironically end up being the saving grace of the Uk's social welfare system?

  • Comment number 7.

    Just keep taking your vitamin C capsules, Stephanie, and all will be well.

  • Comment number 8.

    We are still trying to recover from the "financial flu" that addeled the brains of bankers,investors and economist. Maybe that would have more appropriately been called "Swine Flu." It was certainly a pandemic. The economics of selfishness does not allow to place in the equation social costs. Poor public health standards, pollution, infectious diseases and those sort of things. But economist worry about how such events will impact the bottom line. As they fight any corporate taxes that might mitagate such events they blame the governments for not taking actions. I agree that the priorities for most governments are often backwards in that they provide "incentives" for business while neglecting the welfare of their citiens, but these public/private partnerships are finally coming home to roost. A healthy world would also be a wealthy world, not for the few but for the many, there lies the rub.

  • Comment number 9.

    It is true that there is much to learn about swine flu. One of those things may well be to establish what, if any, link there is with intensive or factory farming.

    As I understand it this virus emerged on or mear to a "facility" named Granjas Carroll de Mexico. This facility is partly owned by Smithfield Foods of Virginia and raises almost 1 million pigs per year.

    This is a slightly different scale than perhaps most people may associate with pig farming. Those associated with this business don´t even call it a farm rather they refer to it as a Confined Animal Feeding Operation ("CAFO").

    If you put this number of pigs in a confined space then surely there must be issues related to the volume of excrement and associated insects and vermin.

    I have no idea what these pigs are fed on - but presumably something different from traditional small scale operations. Neither do I know why a US pig farmer would want to set up shop in Mexico - presumably because of cost benefits. I have no idea what these might be, or whether or not they may relate to lower environmental or health standards than may apply in the US.

    Maybe this virus will have material human effects or maybe it won´t. However it should perhaps serve as an opportunity to examine the efficacy of intensive farming methods. This may raise questions as to the aggregate benefits of a cheap food policy - presumably there would be material disbenefits if this has contributed to the virus and if that virus lays low (perhaps permanently) large swathes of the population. Maybe the growing obesity problem is also a pointer as to the benefits of cheap food.

    Just a thought - but this line of enquiry is much easier to investigate than random guesses as to the macro economic effects of an unknown number of people succumbing to the flu.

  • Comment number 10.

    Somebody we know working in this field at a senior level says this is the real deal and should be taken seriously. And no I am not naming the person or giving links, if you don't like the comment pass it by as hearsay.

  • Comment number 11.

    9 armagediontimes

    Hubble bubble toil n trouble, in hot places as well. Too much bio activity in a confined space, too much close contact between humans and large scale farmed animals. Organics have seen a sharp drop in sales due to the recession, but organics is a label simply saying something is produced the way it used to be. If the move away from factory farming penalises farmers all you are left with is factory farming. Some of these factory farms look like hell on earth.

  • Comment number 12.

    At 1:45pm on 30 Apr 2009, Ciapryna wrote:

    I was wandering what you thoughts are on the economic effects of a flu pandemic on healthcare and social welfare in the UK? Assuming that as with most infections the old and young are effected the worst wouldn't a flu pandemic remove a large segment of the uneconomically productive part of society that takes up the vast majority of resources, especially in healthcare and has been creating an increasing tax burdon. Could a humanatarian disaster such as this ironically end up being the saving grace of the Uk's social welfare system?

    ========================================================================
    This is perhaps the worst response I have read today.

    Not only will the swine flu affect the 20-50 age range the most, how can you say that killing off the unproductive will save the UK's social system? It is a matter of changing norms and institutions for the UK social system to survive!

    As you might not know, our society is ageing anyway and by 2050 over 50% of our population will be over 50 years old. How about we persuade employers to gradually hire a larger percentage of older workers in light of this change? Or perhaps increase retirement age?

  • Comment number 13.

    Can swine flu save the economy?

    There are three main problems with the economy, one that people are not spending any money, two that there are large numbers of people with no jobs claiming benefits, this includes pensioners. Thirdly that there is too many drains on governments constantly dwindling funds. Swine flu could cure all of these economic ills. Swine flu is more likely to be deadly if you are weak and unlucky, which accounts for most pensioners and the jobless. Whilst many people within them are our friends and family if they were to disappear it would see a new age of prosper in Britain. The inheritance from the elderly will fund not only the beneficiaries but also the government. With many less pensions and benefits to pay and a drastic drop in NHS bills from less elderly patients losing the elderly will see a new age of asset rich workers who can spend there new inheritance in the economy and give it the boost that it needs. Not only will there be more money in the economy but with a reduced labour pool finding a job for those who do survive will be much easier with less competition.

  • Comment number 14.

    WHY THE FUSS? - WHACK A CROC!

    People catch flu every year, some people die from flu every year. Most people with this strain of flu recover pretty quickly.

    What's more imnportant, a desirable inability to recover from a major, venal, securitization scam or a media and WHO fomented hysteria to, on the basis of the evidence to date, a dose of relatively mild flu which currently isn't being put into a responsible statistical context?

    Meanwhile, in the real world, NATO upsets Russia in Brussels and in Georgia, and Crysler is filing for bankrupcy. Yet still, people interviewed on Newsnight by Paul Mason lament that nobody is buying RVs at he rate hey did in the past now loans are not so readily/irresponsibly abvailable.

    Reading responses to quite reasonable (but no doubt unpopular) posts to this and others blogs, one can readily see why all efforts to sort out this economic mess amount to one mega task of whack-a-croc!

  • Comment number 15.

    I must say I find the whole article ghoulish and poorly founded. In reality there have been a number of fatalities in the area of origin and one death of a baby in the US. While I applaud the efforts of the health authorities to prepare for the worst, there is no evidence as yet that the infection has spread rapidly in any of the countries affected outside Mexico. I suspect it will go the same way as avian flu, press comments about the end of the world being nigh but the whole thing fizzling out when it ceases to be newsworthy. So I do question whether an economic analysis based on such specious facts serves any real purpose other than to further hype up the story, to the detriment of the unfortunate few who have actually been involved.

  • Comment number 16.

    If you look at the situation objectively and pay attention to facts, it is easy to see that there is something fishy going on. As usual, someone is benefiting from this situation, for some "good" reason the swine flu is getting a lot of attention. It is obviously difficult to determine whether it is worth all the hype around it being a mere outsider. However, judging from past historical events, economic and political ones, we should be intelligent enough, or simply observant enough, to be able to look behind the stage. Perhaps this is cynical or bordering on paranoia, but that is what some use to manipulate others.

  • Comment number 17.

    To those who think it's OK to fantasise about the potential economic benefits of some unfortunate people in society losing their lives to this god awful disease - You should be ashamed of yourselves!

    You'd better hope that it's not you the virus considers 'weak or unlucky'.....

  • Comment number 18.

    13. At 5:39pm on 30 Apr 2009, seph87 wrote:
    Can swine flu save the economy?

    No - it's going to be Aporkalypse now!

  • Comment number 19.

    ImmuneRegen® Licenses Intellectual Property From University of Pittsburgh to Further Develop Proprietary Compound

    "... ImmuneRegen is developing Homspera, the NK1R-specific analog of the endogenous neuropeptide Substance P (SP), as a potential vaccine adjuvant. Initial studies by ImmuneRegen have revealed adjuvant activity for Homspera with influenza virus vaccines, resulting in greater antibody responses and corresponding protection from challenges with related viruses. Follow-up studies evaluating different treatment routes and a number of experimental vaccines have confirmed this adjuvant effect of Homspera... "

    Click below to read full press release:

    http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Immuneregen-Biosciences-982158.html

    http://www.CadenceforCancer.org

  • Comment number 20.

    #14 JadedJean

    Thanks for the link to the Jenkins article, which shows commonsense and a sense of proportion.

  • Comment number 21.

    About a decade ago, this terrible disease that was about to wipe out China, first, and then, the rest of the world, broke out in Southern China. People in that part of the world, including masses of lemmings in HK went about covering their mouths and noses in flimsy paper masks !!

    Three years later, it was discovered that despite a hundred or so deaths in HK, more people in HK died of traffic accidents on the roads of HK that year than of that "terrible plague" !! A lot of people grew rich selling what looks like re-cycled toilet paper as face masks !!

    Therefore, in that sense, this current "plague that will wipe out the world" will affect the economy. It will make some people very rich selling what is, in effect, goods of low or nil demand, in vast quantities !! Politicians will use it to distract the people from their failures and/or wrong doings !! Unscrupulous medical practitioners will pander to the fears of the well off but ill-read/uneducated (as had already been reported on TV recently) !!

    I saw this game played out in HK a decade ago during the SARS "pandemic" and I am seeing the same thing happening here !! Meanwhile, most businesses go on as usual !!

    As far as I am concerned, the only swine that have any effect on our economy are those that have their snouts firmly affixed to the public trough !!

  • Comment number 22.

    The worst thing that has happened to the World in the last decade is 24/7 wall to wall news. We get the same news regurgitated every 15 minutes, some channels are devoted solely to this, although you do get the occassional relief break on commercial stations.
    It is this non-stop broadcasting that dramatises and inflates even the most innocuous piece of news into something which threatens the existence of mankind.
    Swine flu is a perfect example of this, the fact is this strain of flu cannot be contracted from pigs and has been wrongly labeled but, no-one is in any hurry to contradict this information and Egypt with no scientific evidence to justify their actions are reported to be killing every pig in the Country.
    Flu in any form is a killer of the weak and vulnerable, every year 12,000 die world-wide from its effects. How many people have died to date in this outbreak?
    If 24/7 news with its rumours and counter-rumours and general misinformation had existed during the days of the Iron Curtain and the Cold War, we would all have been blown to kingdom come.

  • Comment number 23.

    Folks, no more rubbishing a very serious world problem, one that will doubtless call on the immense skills of our great leaders once again.

    Otherwise expect the following:

    This entry is now closed for comments

    This is what they have done over on Pestons blog.

    Perhapsthe explanation is simpler than an attempt to stifle debate. Maybe the moderators are all flexing off for the long weekend. Or maybe this is an attempt to coral debate onto Jericoas site, a form of e-kettling?

  • Comment number 24.

    Anybody know why PESTON has CLOSED his latest blogs for COMMENT??

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    Perhaps SWINE FLU is intended to resolve the UNEMPLOYMENT PROBLEM?

    GORDY??

  • Comment number 27.

    14 JadedJean

    Maybe, maybe not. What worries me more is the fact that the 1976 US swine flu vaccine lead to 500 cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome with 25 deaths attributable to GBS. The '76 flu strain meanwhile hospitalised 13 and killed 1. Mass vaccination of 24 percent of the US population occurred before the vaccination programme was abandoned.

  • Comment number 28.

    26 alexandercurzon

    Bit of a pig 'n a poke. : (

  • Comment number 29.

    Just trying to work out why a blog on swine flu has made so many bloggers mention Peston

  • Comment number 30.

    Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world die each year from one form of transmittable disease or another. No-one really knows or even cares about that phenomenon and therefore the economic impact is insignificant. The SARS virus was widely reported and feared a few years ago. Did that "event" really affect China's ability to churn out vast quantities of products or even the USA's ability to consume them?

    So why the big media-hype about swine flu? The only thing the media will achieve with their alarmist reporting of this event is to provide the government with yet another opportunity to surreptitiously erode more of our personal freedoms.

  • Comment number 31.

    rwolff (#20) What's the betting this is a rather hysterical and irresponsible attempt to defend the abortion of free-market anarchism by making out they can save everyone from a bad cold?

  • Comment number 32.

    funkblogger

    PESTON HAS CLOSED HIS BLOG FOR COMMENT (ON GORDY'S ORDERS?)

    So i cant go on about SHORTING HBOS & WHAT FUN IT WAS.

  • Comment number 33.

    Re Swine Flu?

    Plenty in the House of Commons etc. . .

  • Comment number 34.

    Re Peston's blog - closed for comments.

    What happened was at about 5pm he released a new blog called 'Cleaning Up Bankers' Mess' - this was dated 1st May and was clearly meant as tomorrows blog - a few of us made comments - if you click on my name you will see I did - nothing special about my comment, just proves Peston's blog was there - then the blog was pulled - then the old blog was blocked from anyone making comments.

    So not sure if the early release announced something not in public domain and by closing the other blog they tried to stop other bloggers releasing the news but certainly something went wrong.

  • Comment number 35.

    In fact if you go back to Pestons closed blog the comments 104 and 105 have been removed by the moderators - but if you click on their names you can read their comments from the other blog - I'm guessing comments wee removed coz about other blog.

  • Comment number 36.

    #18 heathen GROAN!! :-)

    #33 AC I recommend the cover of the new Private Eye: "Swine Fever Hits Britain"

    Picture of the House of Commons chamber, with comments such as "These expenses have saved my bacon" etc.

    #13 There may well be too many people in the world, but pensioners can and do contribute to the economy in all sorts of ways - unpaid child care for a start. In my experience, even semi-able bodied pensioners do all sorts of things for nothing which help keep society going. The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong... (Ecclesiastes).

  • Comment number 37.

    Great news. The rate of increase has slowed. The pig-tails of recovery have been sighted. Our beloved Health Ministers seem to have solved the problem whilst on a day trip to Luxembourg. They remain concerned but not paniced and we are all safe provided the EU boosts cooperation. So there we are. We are truly blessed to have such heros at our helm.

    Also Pestons blog is back up but noy yet accepting any comments on his May Day piece.

  • Comment number 38.

    Morning Stephanie,
    has anyone considered the effect of the danger of contracting swine 'flu on air travel?
    Many years ago, a vociferous lobby succeeded in persuading the airlines to adopt a "No-Smoking" policy...for the health of air travellers who didn't like smokers. The airlines realised that by conning the public that it was for the good of their health, that most people, smokers and non smokers would agree to this ban. However, there was also an ulterior motive which was to save money on air conditioning on 'planes by reducing the amount of fresh air added to the recycled air and thereby save fuel.
    This means that during modern air travel a lot more recycled air is used which by definition increases the concentration of any bugs in the air used.
    I believe it is for this reason that flights to Mexico have been suspended by some airlines.
    The whole sorry state of airline hygiene needs investigation if we are to prevent a pandemic as this is one of the most effective vectors for rapid dispersal into the population at large.

    As an aside I note that the Government have loads of masks and 'flu treatments stockpiled but there is no intention of making these available to the public.

  • Comment number 39.

    Stephanie:
    This is [almost] completely off-topic and so does not need to be published.
    But I don't know where else to pose the question.
    But I am curious to know/read about whether the Euro/Eurozone has helped or exacerbated the members of that club during the current crisis. We were told at its launch that the success [or not] of the Euro would be seen in its response to "shocks" to the economic system. Well this is about a big a shock that anyone could have imagined. How is it doing?

  • Comment number 40.

    #38 Addendum

    Smoking also prevents the more severe impact of swine flu. According to Lisa Melton at the Novartis Foundation it reduces the production of inflamatory cytokines. It also has been shown to statistically correlate with a reduced incidence of breast cancer. So, the smoking ban is yet another NuLabour intrusion into our rights that appears to be counterproductive?

  • Comment number 41.

    It started in Mexico, it is a World-Wide problem, Global problems need Global solutions, we are better placed than most Countries to weather this storm!!!
    Any of this sound familiar?
    Ah well, at least it takes our minds of the recession.

  • Comment number 42.

    Whats happened to Bobs blog , shutdown and cannot make any commetns

  • Comment number 43.

    I think that this swine flu paranoia is starting to rage massively out of hand... we're now actually in a state of deflation, now would be a good time to let this run it's course and focus on the main issue. It will not cost as much, due to improved anti-virals, so why don't we focus on the issue at hand?

  • Comment number 44.

    #34 "What happened was at about 5pm he released a new blog called 'Cleaning Up Bankers' Mess' - this was dated 1st May and was clearly meant as tomorrows blog"

    Oh dear !! That was surely naughty of some one to use a Tardis to release Peston's blog a day early !! :-)

    Ah, the BBC !! What will we laugh about without it ??

  • Comment number 45.

    #38 "As an aside I note that the Government have loads of masks and 'flu treatments stockpiled but there is no intention of making these available to the public."

    These are the leftovers from the previous "panics"/"pandemics" over the SARS and the bird flu that were supposed to have wiped out Britain's population totally but somehow failed to do the job properly !! So, now, the government will ensure that the swine flu is given an "equal opportunity" to do its job properly in order to satisfy the PC crowd !!

    Just so's you'd like to know !!

  • Comment number 46.

    #43 "It will not cost as much, due to improved anti-virals, so why don't we focus on the issue at hand?"

    The issue at hand is that the government was soundly thrashed over the gurkhas' rights and they need something to distract the people from their humiliating defeat !! So those poor little viruses (viri ?) are used as convenient scapegoats !!

    Even Blunkett told them off. Blunkett may be blind but he can still see clearer than those dunderheads in government !!

  • Comment number 47.

    15. At 6:12pm on 30 Apr 2009, funkyblogger wrote:
    I must say I find the whole article ghoulish and poorly founded... I do question whether an economic analysis ... serves any real purpose other than to further hype up the story...'

    XXXX

    Call me naive, but I do wish people read the blogs they complained about. How can you reconcile this comment with this characteristic line from the blog itself?

    "Ill-informed optimism is no better than ill-informed gloom. But if we are looking at something on the scale of the Sars issue now, my guess is that the same will be true this time. The costs will be less than some now fear. "

    How, exactly,is a suggestion that the crisis has been over-estimated compatioble with an accusation of 'hyp[ing] up the story'?

  • Comment number 48.

    I live in Mexico city and since all this started ,we all the citizens have our doubts about it, some of us think that its a trick to distract us ,beacuase somehting big it's going to happen as in a huge economical crisis. suddenly alot of international agencies and some countries are sending money to Mexico .. why? wouldnt be better that they send medical aid ?? this wouldnt be the first time that the mexican goverment use a crazy pretext to avoid the attention of public...the last tiem i was a kid and they usea a kind of monster named "chupacabras"and after it apearred we had a huge crisis.that the world knew as tequila effect.

  • Comment number 49.

    mexicanflanders (#48) Does this help? Begin with the video.

  • Comment number 50.

    There is a salient point about economic forecasts and swine flu in this wonderful, joyous post by Marina Hyde.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/01/swine-flu-mexico-uk-media

    Should be compulsory reading for BBC journos covering this 'story'.

  • Comment number 51.

    "What about the more recent, and less alarming, example of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) in China and Hong Kong?"
    ------------------
    Dear me... Hong Kong has always been part of China, and was given back by the British empire over 10 years ago.

  • Comment number 52.

    Realistically speaking, swine 'flu isn't going to make much difference to peoplewho dont make money from exploiting people.

  • Comment number 53.

    Conclusion: An interesting epidemiological 'experiment'.

  • Comment number 54.

    An interesting blog, but I think you really said all that really needed to be said in your second paragraph: "It's safe to say that none of them has a clue."

    Maybe this pandemic will escalate to a full scale public health emergency and kill millions. Maybe a few people will be feeling slightly unwell for a couple of days and then get better and then the whole thing will fizzle out. We just don't know.

    It's true that if this becomes really serious, the economic impact probably won't be the most important problem. But it will still be an important problem, so it's an interesting subject to consider.

  • Comment number 55.

    Nowadays the British workforce (certainly in the public sector), enjoy an enormous holiday entitlement plus a week or two unofficial sick leave as a matter of course, quite different to even maybe just a generation ago. Swine Flu in the main, appears to be over in 3 or 4 days simply extending days off work by around ten per cent of expectations; most of those days will be covered by colleagues. The self-employed will probably carry on regardless. So unless we all go sick at the same time (not very likely) and with the epidemic affecting around a third of us over the next three years or so, I can't see it making a great deal of difference, except for one thing, we are all now getting a bit panicky, if we now all start staying indoors and not getting out and about spending money, the economy really will grind to a halt. So essentially it's up to the media to send out reassuring messages that there's nothing much to worry about. Perhaps the BBC could lead the way.

 

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.