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Schenk Flu has potential to affect economy
MADISON, Wis. (4/29/09)--The global swine flu outbreak has the potential to impact the economy, according to an economist with the Credit Union National Association. Analysts interviewed in Investor's Business Daily predicted a modest economic impact overall from the virus. Some sectors will be more affected than others. The virus "has the potential to have a significant effect on economic activity," as it hits the airline and tourism industries, said Mike Schenk, senior economist and vice president of economics and statistics at CUNA. The virus could also hurt consumer and investor confidence, he told the publication (April 28). The article pointed out the unfortunate timing of the flu--arriving just as the economy was leaning toward recovery. Concerns that the flu could delay a rebound were reflected in queasy markets, with the Standard & Poor's 500 dropping 1%, the Nasdaq down 0.9% and the Dow down 0.6% on Monday, the article said. Some sectors--such as the pharmaceutical industry--likely will do well during a pandemic, because demand for drugs to treat the flu symptoms would increase, said the article. According to USA Today, all 50 states will have received antiviral drugs by Sunday. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that U.S. travelers avoid non-essential travel to Mexico, which has been hardest hit by the swine flu. The global airline industry--before the flu hit--was expected to lose $4.7 billion this year. Meanwhile, Tuesday afternoon the World Health Organization (WHO) said that almost all cases of the swine flu outside of Mexico were among people who had recently traveled to Mexico. It upgraded its alert level to phase four, consistent with a sustained human-to-human transmission. A level five would signify a pandemic (ComputerWorld April 27). Gartner Inc. analyst Rick DeLotto told ComputerWorld that WHO's phase-level increase won't affect businesses but could affect decisions to close schools and elderly health care. DeLotto is advising companies to check their telecommuting capabilities and to make sure assistant managers can take over if needed. Pandemic planners warned in the past that high demand from people accessing the Internet at home could lead to online usage restrictions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported Tuesday that the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. jumped to 64 cases in five states Tuesday. New York City has 45 cases; California has 10; Texas, 6; Kansas, 2; and Ohio, 1. The case rate has increased about 20 a day since Sunday. Monday night the cases totaled 48 and Sunday night cases totaled 20. Other cases are reported but have not been confirmed with the centers, said USA Today and The New York Times (April 28).
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