Social and Economic Impacts of Bird Flu Outbreak

Dr.Kedar Karki
Avian influenza (AI), popularly known as bird flu, shocked the world and created uncertainties in the global market since its detection in 1997. It has already infected Asia, parts of Europe, and Africa leading to the death of 150 million birds across the globe and still counting. According to a study conducted by the Commission of European Communities in assessing the impacts of bird flu outbreak, the global loss is possibly running into billions now. Bird flu is an infection caused by avian virus natural to wild bird species. They do not get sick from it but the virus is contagious and can kill domesticated birds such as chickens, ducks, and turkeys. The virus does not usually infect humans; however, a case of human infection was first reported in Hong Kong in 1997. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that this resulted from contact with infected poultry or surfaces contaminated with secretion or excretions from infected birds. Alarmingly, bird flu severely affected the Southeast Asian economies. Although the poultry production and trade have shown quick recovery under the scare of bird flu outbreak especially in Southeast Asia, there is still a need to give attention to this disease.

Economic Impact:
Milan Brambhatt, lead economist from WB East Asia and the Pacific region, said that the impact of AI outbreak was relevant in the rural areas of East Asian communities and drastically affected the poultry sector. In Vietnam, they experienced a 17.5% loss in their total poultry production, equivalent to over 44 million birds. Citing the WB study, losses range from 0.3% to 1.8% percent of Vietnam’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Moreover, 29 million birds or 14.5% of the country’s poultry population died, resulting to a radical 1.5% loss in their GDP. This is a great problem in Southeast Asia or even in East Asia where Thailand and China are the lone meat exporters. A bird flu outbreak directly reduces the supply of poultry product. But the damage is more than that because the effects of an outbreak go beyond poultry. Among the most severely affected sectors are the corn and animal feeds, which provide inputs to the poultry industry. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization preliminary estimates in 2004 of impacts on Southeast Asian economies suggested that a single large outbreak could result in a reduction of up to 1.5% of GDP growth. Bird flu warded off potential tourists and investors. Southeast Asian countries, known as tourist haven of Asia, heavily felt the effect of its outbreak resulting to great losses in the tourism sector. In our own context since 2009 when first outbreak occurred till date different places of different 18 districts in 56 places a total of more than 82 outbreak has been recorded and a sum of Rs 24724065.5 has been paid to farmers as compensation of destroying birds,egg,feed. But still the outbreak is not in control due to which a week

restriction for movement of poultry, poultry products like meat has been in forced in Kathmandu valley. Social Impact: As per the 2005 WB regional economic report, there are great uncertainties about the timing, virulence, and general scope of a future human flu pandemic but “all agree it could lead to at least several million human death.” CDC reported that there are rare and limited cases of human-to-human spread of bird flu. However, all influenza viruses can mutate and possibly become contagious to humans. The greatest cost that can occur as a result of the outbreak is human loss. The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed 630 human cases at the end of July 2013 alone, where 375 have died. Four Factors to Bird Flu’s Potential Economic and Social Impact: • It is a zoonotic (transmitted to humans) disease and can cause death in humans. • Local effects of the 2003-2004 outbreaks were very severe, causing considerable losses of production, and loss of livelihoods of vulnerable people. • Several countries which experienced large outbreaks, have now seen the disease moving into an endemic status. They face a prolonged financial drain for control costs. • The movement of migratory birds has caused simultaneous outbreaks in several countries and regions, with rapid spread across central Asia to Europe and Africa. If outbreaks persist and not quickly controlled, they can disrupt the global poultry population and global trade. Policy Implication: Dealing with the influenza threat requires top political priority in an approach that brings together agriculture, animal health, human health, and finance; along with the best technical help from international agencies that mobilize support initiatives. He pointed out that there is a need for an honest, credible, clear, and transparent public policy approach to reduce panic and disruption. Simulation results which suggest that a bird flu outbreak will severely affect the poultry industry but may be beneficial to the industries producing “other meat products” and meat preparations. What the people can do is to enhance these benefits to hopefully overcome the negative effects of avian flu. It was also explored whether tariff on other meat products and import quotas on poultry be removed. However, this does not make much of a difference and can greatly upset the hog industry. The study highlighted the importance of preventive measures or thinking of other means to address the problem should an outbreak occur in the future. Strategic approaches that would strengthen assessment, evaluation, prevention, and containment of any health problems that affect both human and animals need to be identified and implemented with strong support from governments and the private sector.

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