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Pandemic Influenza May Hurt Economy in United Kingdom

Modest impact on gross domestic product may be compounded by school and work absenteeism

FRIDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Although pandemic influenza may only decrease the gross domestic product (GDP) by up to 4.3 percent in the United Kingdom, school closures and absenteeism from work due to government regulations or fear of infection may negatively impact the economy and potentially increase the effect of the recession, according to a study published Nov. 19 in BMJ.

Richard D. Smith, Ph.D., of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues used a computer model to estimate the economy-wide impact of pandemic influenza in the United Kingdom.

In low-fatality and high-fatality scenarios, the researchers found that the illness alone may account for decreases in the GDP of 0.5 to 1.0 and 3.3 to 4.3 percent, respectively. This may be exacerbated by widespread behavioral changes such as prophylactic absences from work or school. For all disease scenarios, the researchers found that vaccination with a pre-pandemic vaccine could save 0.13 to 2.3 percent of the GDP, a single dose of a matched vaccine could save 0.3 to 4.3 percent, and two doses of a matched vaccine could restrict the overall economic impact to about 1 percent of the GDP.

"We hope that the challenging scenarios outlined by Smith and colleagues will help policy makers to plan for pandemic influenza and to make good investment decisions, averting potentially serious damage to the National Health Service and to the U.K. economy," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

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