Avian flu could cost Asia $130 billion

Dec 3, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – Avian influenza is expected to cost Asia $130 billion by 2005, according to Hur Young-joo of the South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare, as reported in the Dec 2 online edition of The Korea Times.

Of that $130 billion, $60 billion has been spent in China since 2003, Hur said. The estimate was attributed to Oxford Economic Forecasting Ltd., a United Kingdom firm that provides economic analysis, forecasting, and models for businesses. Information about which Asian countries were included and how the figure was developed was not available.

Hur's remarks came in advance of an international conference on zoonoses, which began today in Seoul, South Korea.

About 170 experts were expected to participate, including representatives from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the World Health Organization, and the World Organization for Animal Health, the newspaper reported.

An official from South Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare was quoted as saying, "We seek to prepare a global network for efficient cooperation against epidemics in order to minimize damages from the diseases."

Zoonotic diseases are an area of growing concern for a number of reasons, but avian influenza in Asia has been dominating the news. Experts increasingly worry that the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu, which has killed 32 people in Vietnam and Thailand this year, could trigger a human flu pandemic.

South Korea hasn't had avian flu since March, but officials have strengthened quarantine measures in the country and designated the November-to-February period as a time to be on special alert for the disease, the paper reported.

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