The document also reveals data from a report of the US Congress Research Service, claiming that such an epidemic of bird flu caused by the H5N1virus strain would strike a heavy blow on the US economy. The damage would be tantamount to an economic depression with a drop in the Gross Domestic Product equal to 5 percent, the Congress Research Service believes.
The study concedes that that would be "an extreme scenario" and in the event of a lesser flu epidemic the death toll and the scope of damages to the US economy would be much less.
Should the flu epidemic be commensurate in scale with that of 1957 and 1968, the death rate in the US has been forecast at the level of 209,000 and the losses of insurance companies amounting to $31 billion. During the past years, due to the various complications associated with the outbreaks of flu, on the average 36,000 people died yearly of that disease in the US.
Considering all that, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his televised address to participants of the international conference on fighting bird flu being currently held in Peking said that the world community, on the whole, "is not ready for a global pandemic of bird flu".
He called on the participants of the event from over 100 countries to redouble their efforts to launch a global foundation for countering that dangerous disease. "The amount we are collecting is quite small in comparison with the damage that the pandemic may cause", stressed K. Annan.
In his words, the spread of the H5N1virus "has already brought death and fear to many regions of the Earth". "Separate outbreaks may grow into a pandemic, which will have horrible aftermaths. Therefore, we must work out a program to counteract the spread of the virus", said the UN Secretary-General.