Fear is key to Ebola?s economic contagion

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Fear is key to the economic contagion of Ebola. The gruesome disease that has claimed 1,145 lives in parts of Africa has yet to travel beyond that region?s borders. But Asia?s crisis with severe respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 showed what might happen if it does. Changes to behaviour hurt growth and productivity more than the actual disease.

Asia?s SARS outbreak eleven years ago killed over 750 people, but had a disproportionate economic effect. China, Singapore and Taiwan saw restaurants and hotels empty out, and tourist flows dry up. Hong Kong suffered two quarters of negative quarter-on-quarter GDP growth and retail sales fell 6 percent year on year over the same period, according to CLSA.

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