What Cost, H1N1 Flu Pandemic

Now that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that Influenza A (H1N1) has reached pandemic proportion on a global scale. The virus first appeared in Mexico in March and it has travelled across the globe to 76 countries with 35,928 cases reported (WHO, 15 June 2009).


Drawing parallel to H1N1 pandemic, the financial crisis that started from America in 2007 also hit the world by storm. Such was the interconnectedness state of the nations.


When the world is grappling with the recession, the countries need not have the H1N1 to hamper the already slow recovery process. Have countries quantify the cost of prevention and mitigation of the disease?


You can imagine the costs involved. Both the public sector and private businesses have to incur costs to contain the spread of this virus in Singapore. Government expenditure has to increase unexpectedly from the original government budget proposed in February 2009. This includes hospital expenditure on screening suspected cases to curing them. Man-hours are expended on keeping track of cases and on public briefings by the Ministry of Health (MOH).


All health-care institutions including medical clinics have to spend time checking temperatures of patients and visitors. In larger hospitals, temporary helps are engaged and this incurs costs.


Publicly-funded schools and tertiary institutions have now to check temperatures of students on a regular basis. Teaching staff members have to stay away 7 days from duties if they have travelled to H1N1 affected areas (List of affected countries is advised by MOH).


The airline industry is affected because overseas travel by travelers is kept to a minimum in order not to pick up the virus. With that, tourism receipts will decline for countries with high confirmed cases.


Costs will be there with managing the spread of H1N1 virus. Will part of the costs be passed on to the end consumers? If not, corporations will have to bear this costs which will hit their bottom lines.


This problem, like the financial crisis, requires a global response to stop the spread of the disease. My wish is that WHO together with countries and pharmaceutical firms can end this pandemic, though it will take some time. Normal life can then get back on track.


Written on 6/18/2009 3:46 PM


Copyright © 2009, the author known as LKT in Singapore.


The material presented is intended to be general and written in layman’s language as much as it is possible. The author shall not be liable for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of material written. Please seek professional advice from your financial advisor or financial institutions on material written covering financial matters.

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