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BW Businessworld

Swine Flu

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Fears that an outbreak of swine flu could become a pandemic brought a new threat to the global economy on Monday, just as some economic indicators appeared to be bottoming out.Mexicans returned to work in large numbers after the weekend, despite worries over a virus that has killed up to 149 people there, and spread to the United States, Canada and Europe, but economists have warned that a global outbreak of deadly flu would seriously curtail economic activity. The World Bank estimated in 2008 that a flu pandemic could cost $3 trillion and result in a nearly 5 per cent drop in world gross domestic product.

Companies Restrict Travel
Companies are implementing travel restrictions in response to a potential flu pandemic that has claimed at least 149 lives in Mexico and are poised to take more disruptive safety measures if necessary. With up to 1,600 suspected cases of the new strain in Mexico and confirmed or suspected cases in a dozen other countries as far apart as the US, Spain and Australia, world health experts are moving closer to declaring it the first flu pandemic in 40 years. "Yesterday we gave new travel instructions because of the swine flu. The new guidance is that all non-essential travel from and to Mexico should be postponed for the time being," said Finland's Nokia, the world's largest mobile handset maker, which has a plant at Reynosa in Mexico.

Swine Flu Could Hit Already Ailing Fuel Demand
The widening outbreak of swine flu could further quash already weak jet fuel demand if it grows to rival the SARS epidemic that hit global travel six years ago. Already the United States and Europe have urged caution over travel to Mexico, where the virus has killed over 100 people, and panicked sellers on Monday sold the world's top airline brands."It could hurt (jet) demand here as I see more and more countries are putting out travel warnings," said Mike Zarembski, senior commodities analyst for optionsXpress in Chicago. "The airline business has already been reeling due to the economic crisis." Jet fuel demand has already been battered as the economic crisis curtails travel for business and leisure, down 13.7 percent against year-ago levels, according to the International Energy Agency.

What You Need To Know About Swine Flu
While there have been a number of outbreaks of the new strain of swine flu, there also have emerged a whole gamut of misinformation. Now, scientists have elaborated exactly what one needs to know about this new epidemic. Infectious disease expert Charles Ericsson, M.D., professor of internal medicine and director of Travel Medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, has answered some questions regarding swine flu. Read The Q&A On Swine Flu