Here's how the deadly Wuhan virus could impact the global economy, based on what we know about past outbreaks

Business Insider US
  • At least nine people have died in China from the Wuhan virus, with more than 440 infections reported in the country.
  • The virus has spread from China to other Asian countries like South Korea and Japan, and the first documented case in the US was announced this week.
  • The spread of the virus has raised fears of a global pandemic, which has impacted stocks around the world.
  • Here's how the Wuhan virus could impact the global economy, based on what we know about past outbreaks.
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The spread of the deadly Wuhan virus from its country of origin, China, to other countries in Asia and the United States has raised fears that the virus could lead to a global pandemic, causing stock prices around the world to fall this week.

Here's how the virus could impact the global economy as a whole, according to the economic impacts from past outbreaks.

The SARS virus in 2003

The outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, referred to as SARS, in 2003 was one of the biggest outbreaks in recent history.

Originating in southern China, SARS reached 26 countries and infected more than 8,000 people, according to the World Health Organisation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 774 of those cases resulted in death.

Various studies and models estimated the economic damages around the world caused by SARS were between $40 billion and $80 billion US dollars.

SARS' impacted the economy by influencing expenses like medical care, travel, consumer confidence, and investment, according to a report funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The Ebola virus

From 2014 to 2016, the Ebola virus spread from West Africa, causing nearly 29,000 cases and 11,316 deaths in West Africa alone. Outside the region, around 2,500 were infected and 1,597 died, according to the CDC.

Ebola severely impacted Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, causing an estimated $2.2 billion in GDP loss in the region.

The United States, United Kingdom and Germany donated over $3.6 billion to help respond to the outbreak.

What experts say a pandemic could cost the world economy

Assessing what the impact of an extreme outbreak - a pandemic of an influenza deaths - would be, a 2018 study estimated that a pandemic that kills 720,000 would cost the global economy around $500 billion per year of the outbreak.

That's around 0.6% of global income annually, the study by the World Health Organisation said. It also said that a $500 billion annual hit on the economy from a pandemic is on the lower end of estimated annual losses from climate change, which it said is around 0.2% to 2% of global income.

A global outbreak would hurt poorer countries the most, the study said, causing a loss of 0.3% in annual income for high-income countries, but a more significant loss of 1.6% in lower-to middle-income countries.

What the Wuhan virus is already impacting

The Wuhan virus, like previous outbreaks, has impacted various industries from travel to healthcare.

Stock prices in the travel, retail, and luxury-goods markets fell this week under fears that an outbreak would decrease demand.

The virus has also impacted airline stock prices, with United Airlines and Delta Air Lines falling 2.5% on Tuesday, and American Airlines falling 4.2%, CNBC reported.

But, the virus has bumped pharmaceutical stocks, with pharma stocks in China rising by 10% earlier this week.

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