(Time) The global community cannot withstand another Ebola outbreak: The World Bank estimates the two-year cost of the current epidemic at $32.6 billion. Unfortunately, the virus has revealed gaping holes in our preparedness for major infectious disease epidemics. Because of these, plus the urbanization of rural communities and globalization of travel and trade, more of these epidemics are expected.
In a new report from the EcoHealth Alliance published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), experts estimate that the world will see about five new emerging infectious diseases each year and that we need new prevention strategies to cut economic losses.
Using economic modeling, the researchers analyzed two strategies. We’re familiar with the first, a business-as-usual approach that relies on global surveillance systems to track and identify new diseases emerging in people. The second strategy is what the researchers call “mitigation,” where global players go after what’s actually causing the emergence of unknown diseases.
That’s considered the more economically prudent of the two options (though it’s not what we’re doing.) Even a mild disease outbreak can have big financial consequences. The report shows that the cost of an influenza pandemic ranges from $374 billion for a mild one to $7.3 trillion for one that’s severe. That figure also accounts for a 12.6% loss in gross domestic product and millions of lives lost. It’s a worst-case scenario, but not unimaginable, considering that the Ebola outbreak has already infected well over 18,000 people, and it’s not even an airborne virus. (read more)