Noting that "pandemics are like earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis" - only worse because of their global nature - Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota painted an unsettling picture of pandemic bringing world trade and travel to a screeching halt. Economist Sherry Cooper elaborated with an analysis of supply and demand: since inventories are deliberately kept at razor-thin levels, there would be food shortages and panic buying of nonperishables, water and medical supplies; a black market would ensue. With companies operating at minimum staffing levels, most would find it difficult to continue operating if up to 30 percent of their employees were out with influenza - that includes oil refineries and electric companies, thus leading to gas shortages and extended blackouts. Cooper estimated a mild influenza pandemic could result in a global economic delcine of two percent on an annual basis; but a severe pandemic could result in a six percent decline, which would push the U.S. into a deep recession, deeper than the recession of 1982.
Milken Institute Global Conference 2006: Flu Pandemic: Not just health but the economy, stupid
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