The concern that most preoccupies the world’s business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week is the possibility of a flu epidemic. Richard Branson, the entrepreneur behind Virgin Atlantic Airways told airline industry chiefs yesterday that a flue epidemic could ground up to 70% of commercial flights, according to a bulletin from the Humanitarian Resource Institute (HRI). "You’re just going to have to be strong enough to keep your head down for a year," Branson said.
The H5N1 Avian Flu in Asia has already mutated to a human transmissible form which is currently spreading worldwide via migratory birds and human travel. HRI reports that this is already showing up in "sub clinical, atypical infections involving gastroenteritis, etc." In other words, simple illnesses. Cases requiring the care of physicians and hospitalization may build slowly and be out of sight to the news media for some time. Public health authorities are already involved in contingency planning for the next 12 to 24 months.
According to the National Business Review, Avian flu could bring Asian economies to a standstill. "Even a relatively mild Avian Flu pandemic -- one with an infection rate of 20 per cent and a fatality rate of 0.5 per cent -- could grind Asia’s economy to a standstill, according to a new report from the Asian Development Bank." That would mean about 3 million people would die, even if the pandemic were localized to Asia. In the best case scenario put forward by the ADB, Asia’s GDP would likely experience a loss of around $99.2 billion or about 2.3 percentage points. Another, less optimistic (but far from pessimistic) model, the estimated loss would be $282.7 billion or 6.5 percentage points of GDP and Asia’s economic growth would come to virtual halt, with a regional GDP growth rate of 0.1 per cent. In that scenario, the global trade of good and services will contract around 14 per cent, the equivalent of $2.5 trillion.
Bottom Line: Quit thinking its not going to happen. When the wealthiest men starting counting the cost, a thing has taken on a level of reality already.
What does this mean? -- It will present a real test of how people of faith respond in a time of suffering and massive human need. The really faithful are already planning.