A report issued Wednesday by the World Bank forecasts that the total economic impact of Ebola could exceed $32 billion by the end of 2015 if the virus spreads from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to neighboring countries.
That single dollar amount doesn’t fully convey the extraordinary human toll of a virus that kills four and five of its victims and could infect as many 1.4 million people by January. Yet the World Bank’s estimate is a reminder that sickness and death are only part of what could be a developing regional crisis.
Already, farmers are abandoning their fields, and local authorities are restricting shipments of goods, according to the report. Fear of Ebola is spreading much faster than the virus itself, with what the report describes as potentially “catastrophic” economic consequences, including food shortages.
The World Bank’s latest forecast elaborates on a previous report, adding new details and expanding the analysis to the region as a whole. The authors are optimistic that neighboring countries will be able to contain outbreaks, in which case the economic effects would be limited. They note that it is impossible to predict the spread of the virus and its effect on the economy with much confidence.