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Noy, Ilan
Shields, Sharlan
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ADB Economics Working Paper Series No. 591
The 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic was the first epidemic of the 21st century to pose a threat to global health and generate considerable panic across the globe. Fortunately, due to the rapid containment of the epidemic, both the harm to the public's health and economic losses were not as considerable as many feared they might be. After a short period of economic turmoil, lasting a few months, normal patterns of economic activity were resumed. However, during this period there were dramatic reductions in air travel and tourism, and leisure and/or hospitality services in the areas affected by SARS. These losses were driven by public avoidance, which contributed to a disproportionate aggregate disease prevention cost. This has led to concerns that an outbreak exhibiting higher mortality rates could result in a catastrophic impact on the global economy caused by even more drastic behavioral responses. These behavioral responses were related to individual perspectives about the risk of contraction and death, as well as the perceived costs and benefits of disease avoidance measures. How individuals form these avoidance responses has a significant role in determining the pathway of an epidemic. When situating these considerations within the trend of increasing emergence of zoonotic diseases and increasing globalization, analyses of the behavioral reaction to the SARS epidemic are potentially important. With this in mind, critical analysis of government intervention mechanisms is considered to address how cost-effective intervention might alter behavioral responses to lead to more positive outcomes.
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