Report: Economic impact of Ebola could top $32B

The economic impact of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa could reach $32.6 billion within two years if the deadly disease is not rapidly contained, the World Bank Group warned in a report released Wednesday.


Even if the virus is confined to the three worst-affected nations, the egion could lose up to $9 billion by the end of 2015, the report predicts.

The extensive, 71-page report is the latest warning sign for international leaders, including the U.S., to work more quickly to stop the spread of the disease. At least 3,300 people have died from the disease, straining the region's health systems – and economies.

"The take-away messages from this analysis are that the economic impacts are already very serious in the core three countries — particularly Liberia and Sierra Leone — and could become catastrophic," the report states.

An important factor in the size of the economic impact, according to the report, is the "fear factor" that is causing some countries and companies to close their borders and suspend commercial airlines. The Obama administration has refused to enact travel bans to the affected areas, despite mounting pressure from GOP lawmakers.

The World Bank Group also presents a worst-case scenario in which 150,000 people could become infected and 86,000 people could die. Those dire circumstances would result in an economic loss that is nearly three times the size of the three countries' combined GDP last year.

Under the best-case scenario, the three hardest-hit countries would still lose at least $400 million of their GDP through the end of the year.

Aid groups in West Africa have repeatedly pleaded for more resources to fight Ebola, blasting the international response as too slow. Out of the $1 billion committed globally, just one-quarter has been spent, the United Nations reported last week.

"The international community must find ways to get past logistical roadblocks and bring in more doctors and trained medical staff, more hospital beds and more health and development support to help stop Ebola in its tracks," Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, wrote in a statement.