Economic Implications of Epidemics Old and New

41 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2007

See all articles by Clive Bell

Clive Bell

University of Heidelberg - South Asia Institute (SAI)

Maureen Lewis

World Bank

Date Written: February 2005


The outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the winter of 2002-03 raised the specter of a new, unknown and uncontrollable infectious disease that spreads quickly and is often fatal. Certain branches of economic activity, notably tourism, felt its impact almost at once, and investor expectations of a safe and controlled investment climate were brought into question. Part of the shock of SARS was the abrupt reversal of a mounting legacy of disease control that had altered societies' expectations from coping with waves of epidemics of smallpox, cholera, and measles, among other diseases, to complacency with the virtual elimination of disease epidemics. This paper analyzes the economic implications of the Great Plague in the fourteenth century, the 1918-19 influenza epidemic, HIV/AIDS and SARS to demonstrate the short- and long-term effects of different kinds of epidemics.

Suggested Citation

Bell, Clive and Lewis, Maureen, Economic Implications of Epidemics Old and New (February 2005). Available at SSRN: or

Clive Bell (Contact Author)

University of Heidelberg - South Asia Institute (SAI) ( email )

Grabengasse 14
Heidelberg, D-69117

Maureen Lewis

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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