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The SARS Scare

What will be the human and economic costs of the SARS outbreak?

May 5, 2003

What will be the human and economic costs of the SARS outbreak?

SARS, which stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, has resulted in severe human — and economic costs — in East and Southeast Asia. The ghost town-like scenes and images of people wearing protective masks indicated in early 2003 just how serious this disease has become. Our Globalist Factsheet explores how a little bug sent chills down the global spine.

When and where did it start?

The first cases of SARS occurred in China’s southern province of Guangdong in November 2002.

(The Economist)

Who discovered the disease?

The first doctor to diagnose SARS as a dangerous — and contagious — disease was the Italian doctor, Carlo Urbani, of the World Health Organization.

Dr. Urbani is the one who alerted his superiors on February 28, 2003. A month later, he himself died of SARS in Vietnam.

(Wall Street Journal)

How quickly did the World Health Organization react?

On March 12, 2003, the WHO issued a rare world-wide health alert because of SARS.

(Wall Street Journal)

How deadly is SARS compared to other diseases?

As of 2003, the mortality rate for SARS is 5% — almost as high as that of bacterial meningitis. Like meningitis, it kills the young and vigorous as well as the old and frail.

(The Economist)

Yet, why can parents take comfort?

As of April 25, 2003, no child had died from SARS.


Is SARS really that dangerous?

As of April 30, 2003, the worldwide death toll from SARS stands at 321 in 26 countries. This compares with 36,000 influenza deaths annually in the United States.

(Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

How does that compare to AIDS?

As of 2003, AIDS kills more people in two hours than SARS has killed in total.

(New York Times)

How does SARS compare to malaria infections?

As of May 2, 2003, SARS has infected an estimated 5,500 people and killed 404. In 2003, between 30 million and 500 million will contract malaria — at least one million will die.

(World Health Organization)

How severe is the situation in China?

Of the 5,462 cases of SARS reported worldwide as of April 29, 2003, 4,880 — or 89% — are in China.

(World Health Organization)

After admitting to a cover-up, is Beijing finally taking decisive action?

In April 2003, in order to facilitate 1,000 SARS quarantine patients, Beijing authorities had a full hospital built in 8 days by 7,000 workers.


How did SARS affect manufacturing in China?

In April 2003, Motorola’s mobile phone division in China cancelled one night shift in fear of a SARS outbreak after a worker became ill. It sent all workers on the shift home for 10 days.

(The Australian)

What is the mood among businesses in China?

An April 2003 survey of 20 Hong Kong and Chinese semiconductor companies showed about 40% expected SARS to affect their second-quarter business earnings.

(Gartner Group)

How will SARS affect Asia's economy?

As of April 2003, it is estimated that the real gross domestic product growth for Asia (excluding Japan, Australia and India) will be lower by 0.6% — or $15 billion — due to SARS.

(Morgan Stanley)

What about the global economy?

Between October 2002 and April 2003, it is estimated that the global cost of SARS amounted to $30 billion.

(World Health Organization)

What is the outlook for Thailand?

In April 2003, Thailand reduced its GDP forecast a full percentage point to between 3.6 and 4.1% due to SARS — a loss of as much as $1.3 billion.

(Thai Ministry of Finance)

What is the situation in Singapore?

SARS is estimated to reduce GDP growth in Singapore by as much as 0.5% in 2003 — or up to $875 million.

(Singapore Government)