- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

When the Flu Comes: Political and Economic Risks of Pandemic Disease in Asia

Ann Marie Kimball


This chapter examines the potential impacts of an avian flu pandemic in the Asia-Pacific, in particular the effects on regional economic integration, effectiveness of regional responses, and implications for the United States.

Main Argument

East and Southeast Asia will be the center of the pandemic influenza that most public health authorities predict will likely sweep the global community in the near future. Such an outbreak will transform the region's relationship both among its increasingly integrated member economies and with the world at large. Though local and national public health structures are being urgently reinforced, the regional structures that are currently in place will likely prove inadequate to coordinate transnational activities in the event of a pandemic.

Policy Implications

  • The ongoing process of economic integration within the region is at risk in a pandemic scenario.
  • If a pandemic occurs within Asia's human population, regional cooperative forums on public health issues might be ineffective as many agreements are as of yet little more than declarations of intent and most are grossly underfunded.
  • International collaboration to strengthen public health defenses and contain the pandemic threat is active but may not prove adequate.
  • The United States has a major role to play, and how that role is played over the next decade will impact Washington's relationships in and with the region.
  • Consensus and cooperation with strong accountability are cornerstones of successful technical collaboration.