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World Bank Puts Dollar Figure on Potential Avian Flu Outbreak

Global economy could take a $2 trillion hit if human-transmitted form of bird flu were to develop and spread.

Avian influenza continues to get world attention. Over the weekend the World Bank put a cost on a potential outbreak of the human-transmitted form of the disease, if it were to develop: $2 trillion. According to a Reuters report, the World Bank says the economic threat remains "real and substantial."

Earlier estimates last year pegging the cost at $800 billion were a rough guess, but that more financial modeling has revealed a sharper threat should the virus mutate to easily pass among people. Officials say it is important to create strong programs to stop the flu and strengthen world health and veterinary services.

A World Health Organization official has noted that recent outbreaks of the disease in Thailand and Laos show the risk remains for the disease. But that official notes that popular media are treating fears of an avian flu outbreak as they did the Y2K issue six years ago. Since those computer glitches proved unfounded, some are saying avian flu is theY2K of the viral world - and they're losing interest.

However, countries and world organizations continue to commit resources to stopping the disease and researching ways to combat it should the flu start spreading from human to human.

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