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Flu Pandemic: Is the U.S. Ready?
Date:3/5/2008

ST. LOUIS, March 5 /PRNewswire/ -- If history is any guide, a modern-day influenza pandemic in the United States would likely hit city dwellers and non-whites the hardest, based on an economic analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Thomas A. Garrett, an economist with the St. Louis Fed, wrote the analysis for the March/April issue of Review, the Reserve Bank's bi-monthly journal of economic and business issues. The publication is also available online at the St. Louis Fed's web site: http://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/review.

Researchers at the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that deaths from a flu pandemic could total more than 200,000, with an initial cost to the U.S. economy of $166 billion, or about 1.5 percent of GDP. Moreover, the long-run costs could be even greater.

To find a comparable parallel, Garrett looked at the 1918 flu epidemic in the United States. "That pandemic killed 675,000 people in the United States," said Garrett, "which is greater than the number of U.S. troops killed in both world wars combined." He based his analysis on economic data from the period as well as newspaper accounts at the time, which provide some evidence of the pandemic's effects on business and industry.

Garrett's analysis reveals that Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey suffered the highest mortality rates in 1918, while Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin had the lowest.

His research shows that influenza deaths were generally greater in cities than in rural areas. In fact, he found that influenza mortalities in U.S. cities were three to five times higher, on average, than during a non-pandemic year. Interestingly, the cities with the highest mortality rates in 1918 were all located in Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh, Scranton and Philadelphia. The cities with the lowest rates were all located in the Midwest:
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SOURCE Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
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