The possible macroeconomic impact on the UK of an influenza pandemic



Little is known about the possible impact of an influenza pandemic on a nation's economy. We applied the UK macroeconomic model ‘COMPACT’ to epidemiological data on previous UK influenza pandemics, and extrapolated a sensitivity analysis to cover more extreme disease scenarios. Analysis suggests that the economic impact of a repeat of the 1957 or 1968 pandemics, allowing for school closures, would be short-lived, constituting a loss of 3.35 and 0.58% of GDP in the first pandemic quarter and year, respectively. A more severe scenario (with more than 1% of the population dying) could yield impacts of 21 and 4.5%, respectively. The economic shockwave would be gravest when absenteeism (through school closures) increases beyond a few weeks, creating policy repercussions for influenza pandemic planning as the most severe economic impact is due to policies to contain the pandemic rather than the pandemic itself.

Accounting for changes in consumption patterns made in an attempt to avoid infection worsens the potential impact. Our mild disease scenario then shows first quarter/first year reductions in GDP of 9.5/2.5%, compared with our severe scenario reductions of 29.5/6%. These results clearly indicate the significance of behavioural change over disease parameters. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.