As South Korean authorities step up efforts to stop the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, from spreading further, the president of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim has warned that the next global pandemic could be far deadlier than any experienced in recent years.
Speaking in Frankfurt earlier this week, Dr Kim said Ebola revealed the shortcomings of international and national systems to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks.
The next pandemic could move much more rapidly than Ebola, Dr Kim noted:
The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed an estimated 25 million people in 25 weeks. Bill Gates asked researchers to model the effect of a Spanish Flu-like illness on the modern world, and they predicted a similar disease would kill 33 million people in 250 days.”
It should come as no surprise that in a 2013 global survey, insurance industry executives said a global pandemic was their biggest worry, Dr Kim added.
The Financial Times blog The World points to World Bank estimates that a pandemic could kill tens of millions and wipe out between 5 to 10 percent of GDP of the global economy,
Meanwhile, South Korea is experiencing an outbreak of MERS second in size only to that in Saudi Arabia, where it originated in 2012, with 10 dead and 122 confirmed cases so far. Some 3,000 people are reported to have been quarantined to-date.
A Wall Street Journal Real Time Economics blog post points to the potential economic impact of MERS, noting that South Korea’s $30 billion tourism industry would bear the brunt. Analysts predict the outbreak could knock off anywhere from 0.1 to 0.8 percentage points from South Korea’s annual GDP growth.
Back to that 2013 insurance survey conducted by Towers Watson. Over 30,000 votes were cast and industry execs ranked global pandemic as their most important extreme risk in the long term.
I.I.I. has facts and statistics on mortality risk here.