The economy, disease, coronavirus: how epidemics have ravaged humanity

According to the world health organization, over the past 50 years, the world has identified 1500 new infectious agents. Not all of them life-threatening, the vast majority of them is treatable and only a few received the status of a pandemic — disease that has spread around the world. New viruses appear constantly, and pharmaceutical and medicine do not have time to identify them, not to mention the rapid creation of vaccines. Most often outbreaks occur in poor or densely populated countries, and then makes his case globalization: viruses carry tourists, volunteers or even the exported goods. Only when the cases of illness or death are recorded in different countries, the powers that be begin to worry. But it’s too late.


will Hold a short excursion into the history of infectious diseases, once leading the world in horror. Epidemics have always had a major influence on the development of economy and civilization. First merciless pandemic that killed 100 million people, was Justiniana plague, but she was savaged quite a long time — in the VI century. But about the plague that ran amok in Europe in the Middle ages, heard everything: read books, seen movies About it… still reminiscent of plague pillars — monuments in honor of the “plague epidemic” in many European cities, and the image of the plague doctor mask in the form of a bird beak.

the Bubonic plague or “black death” (the name is due to the fact that the bodies of the dead were black and looked charred), were brought to Europe from the territory of Indochina in the mid-fourteenth century and quickly grew to the scale of the terrible pandemic. Medicine at that time was at a primitive level. Doctors treated the sick with herbs and then popular, but completely useless and even harmful method of bloodletting. Actually, the mask is in the shape of the bill has been devised on the basis of religious beliefs that this portrayal will scare away the disease. The plague claimed the lives of 60 million people. Died on average every second citizen of the citys, which were savaged by the epidemic.

“the Black death” enormously changed the socio-economic situation of Europe: the economy, the mentality, culture and even genetic composition of the population. “Survivors of the plague became rich. They became the owners of money and property of thousands of victims. Newly rich people became the founders and merchant banking dynasties. Changed economic needs of the population: the need for food has dramatically dropped, the world has changed,” explains the head of IAC “Alpari” Alexander Razuvaev.

the Researchers are still arguing about what a pandemic is considered most deadly. The Justinian’s and bubonic plague in this title can compete with the Spanish flu. “Spanish flu” has struck the world in 1918 and killed, according to various estimates, from 50 to 100 million people. Despite its name, the flu did not originate in Spain, and from there just went the first news about the contamination. The birthplace of this strain of influenza is also considered Indochina, but from there the infection has gone in the direction of Europe, and in North America. The epidemic began in the American state of Kansas, and from there, along with soldiers and workers during the First world war moved to the European part and on other continents.

the Economic effect of the “Spanish flu” was studied by many researchers. Economist Thomas Garrett from the Federal reserve Bank in St. Louis has resulted in a compilation of excerpts from articles in the Newspapers of 1918. Edition Arkanzas Gazette wrote that “trade has fallen by 40%, according to some estimates — and 70%. The only business that thrives is the pharmacy”. Newspaper Commercial Appeal described an even more pessimistic picture: “coal Production has fallen by 50%. Mine is on the verge of closing because of the epidemic among the miners. In the city of Caulfield Tennessee were only 2% of the healthy population”. Researchers Robert Barro and josé Ursua from Harvard considered the “Spanish flu”, the fourth economic impact catastrophe of the XX century, after the First and Second world wars and the great depression. According to scientists, due to the Spanish flu of world GDP fell by 6.6%. Outbreaks of influenza have arisen and after, throughout the century, but the real horror was waiting for humanity in the new Millennium.

Virus Millennium

the First Hello from the family of coronaviruses, the world got in 2003. Infection called SARS. In Russian, the disease is called severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or atypical pneumonia. This bacterial infection struck the respiratory system and also was first recorded in China. Diagnosis patient zero, a farmer from Guangdong province, was put after his death. In the entire history of SARS has had 8.5 million people and the mortality rate of the virus was approximately the same as the COVID-19: dying, one out of ten cases. Just the epidemic has claimed the lives, according to various estimates, from 800 to 900 people. The situation was saved in part that this kind of atypical pneumonia, it was impossible to get from those carriers who have no symptoms (unlike COVID-19). Despite the fact that SARS was not as fatal, this abbreviation is well remembered world: the virus has become the symbol of a new unknown diseases, talked about all the media, taught viewers and readers to the way people in gauze bandages and suits, bacteriological protection. In addition, the outbreak of SARS was a lesson for China. Chinese authorities stopped the death of a farmer from an unknown illness that delayed the start of the fight against the virus. As a result, the cases of infection were identified in more than 30 countries.

Negative economic effect of the epidemic was visible in the first place for China. But in those years, China’s contribution to world economy accounted for only 4%, not 16% as it is today. “As a result of the SARS epidemic disrupted trade and economic ties affected tourism and transport services. Such events are responded to stock and commodity marketssince due to the economic slowdown and falling demand for raw materials. The Asian development Bank assessed the consequences for the world economy from SARS is almost $60 billion,” analyses of economic losses from SARS head office of the Luxembourg consulting group “KRK Group” Nikita Ryabinin.

the SARS Epidemic made clear to all international forecasters and organizations that the world was not ready for the unexpected shock. Since then the world Bank each year issued reports warning that a possible catastrophic new epidemics, and encouraged countries to prepare for them. But, as history shows, the world did not listen.

Fever from Africa

If the influenza and pneumonia was the scourge of Eurasia, the new contagion — Ebola — to the planet brought Africa. The virus was discovered in the 1970-ies, but the mass claim, he became in 2013. The outbreak occurred in West Africa, specifically Liberia and Guinea. People the virus was passed from bats (in the infection with coronavirus is also to blame for these animals). The spread of disease was facilitated by the traditional funeral rites in Africa: tenacious infection transmitted by water, food.

Ebola was really a terrible disease: the media was in a fever, vomited, their bodies were bleeding. The virus was often contracted physicians assistance. Ebola has claimed the lives of 11 thousand people from 27 thousand infected. In some pockets of lethal outcome was in 90% of cases.

the Epidemic has caused irreparable damage to the already troubled economies of West African countries. The President of the Republic of Guinea alpha Conde in 2016 reported that because of a virus his country had lost about $2 billion, or a third of GDP. The state was isolated, was broken trade relations, the importers refused goods.

In Liberia because of the Ebola epidemic, the market has lost 50-75% of the turnover, says the associate Professor of the Department of Finance and prices of REU them. Plekhanova Elena Voronkova. “Agriculture SOSwas taulealo a quarter of Liberia’s GDP in 2014. Quarantine and restrictions on movement of labour has affected the harvest and work the farms, leading to food shortages and rising prices by 40%. In Sierra Leone due to the Ebola outbreak 30% increase in rice prices. Infection resulted in a reduction of basic goods exported from African States affected by the virus — coconut oil and palm oil,” added the Professor.

However, the Ebola epidemic has undermined the financial stability of not only African countries. The risk of closure has led to a decrease in trips around the world. Shares fell American and British airlines the losses of a network of hotels and companies engaged in logistics in Africa. Ruined by those who led the mining business in the territories, where were the hotbeds of Ebola. For example, shares of British mining company London Mining has fallen by 100%, which led to its bankruptcy.

In 2016 at the St. Petersburg international economic forum (which, by the way, this year for the first time will not take place due to coronavirus) devoted a special session to a discussion of the impact of Ebola on the global economy.

Then a senior representative of the world health organization and Aylward said that the Ebola has shown the absolute vulnerability of the world from the risk of infectious diseases. “The threat becomes more profound, and the world is absolutely not ready. Infectious diseases are major and uncontrollable risks for the economy and business,” he said.

sorry for the Bird

Sometimes disease from the animal world add many problems to the person. Remember about the epidemic of bird flu, which was transmitted to people butchering or eating meat in the food. The first outbreak of influenza occurred in 1997 in Hong Kong. The H5N1 virus entered the body 18 of the Chinese, six of them died. Because the infection is not passed from person to person, the main measure of prevention was the destruction of poultry-millions of chickens, turkeys, the ducks simply burned.

several years Passed, and in Asia, was registered by a new outbreak of avian flu, which quickly reached Europe and Africa. In 2009, the virus re-emerged — in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Just bird flu had been ill about 900 people, half of whom died.

In 2009, the same year the world suffered from a new strain of influenza virus, “Mexican”, or swine flu. He appeared in Mexico city made it to Europe, received from the who status of the pandemic. However, whether the scale was a virus, is still under debate. Some researchers believe that the pandemic was not, as had been the panic that provoked the pharmaceutical companies in their own interests. Others have accused who of corruption. The prevailing view is that during the peak of the swine flu had 200 thousand people, of them died less than 1% — about 2 thousand people.

the Economic consequences of the “Mexican” was heavy. Sounded such estimates: the global industry lost $2.2 billion, and the then Minister of Finance of Mexico Agustin Carstens said that the disease will cost the country 0.3 to 0.5% of GDP.

“Avian and swine flu have led to losses in agriculture, the food industry, as decreased domestic and export supplies of poultry, most of the livestock was destroyed. This affected also feed manufacturers. In the context of the swine flu pandemic in 2009 have decreased by 15% in the price of oil,” adds Elena Voronkova.

However, the swine flu, with its controversial status, and other viruses of this century showed a cynical truth that the suffering people you can earn. “During epidemics aktiviziruyutsya pharmaceutical company. It is believed that in the fight against swine flu in 2009, pharmacists earned $7,5–10 billion,” — said Voronkov.

Today, mankind is a new challenge with the virus. Its true scope and future volume losses is still unclear, but it is obvious that the economy have long to lick their wounds. While analysts of leading international centres called the possible amount of damage from the coronavirus in the range of $1 trillion to $3 trillion, which will reduce global GDP from 0.5% to 1.5%.

In any case, for the global economy of the epidemic can rightfully be considered “black Swan” from the same labor economist Nassim Taleb. Such “black swans” — unpredictable events and catastrophes, changing the course of economic history. Pandemics create chaos and uncertainty, slow markets, and collapsing demand for goods and services ranging from entertainment and ending with energy. Rush trade relations. Closed flights. Stop of production. Be layoffs. In the end, death is not only a tragedy for the family, but the loss to economies. Humanity has already passed all this, and now he again have to cope with a new epidemic that still show what you are capable of.