Infectious diseases are incubating everywhere across the world—ranging from the deadly Ebola virus to the more common yet debilitating influenza—to often devastating effect. It raises the question of how large a premium should world governments pay to insulate their economies from global pandemics.
Would you believe $343.7 billion?
That eye-popping figure is one of several takeaways of a group of scholars calling for a "global strategy" to mitigate the impact of threats to public health. In a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal, economists and public health experts said emerging pandemics were increasing in their virulence and frequency.
The grim circumstances, which include the Ebola outbreak ravaging parts of Africa and an increasingly tough flu season in the U.S., calls for "globally coordinated strategies to combat" the hydra-headed threats posed by widespread disease—which the scientists say have their origins in animals. By pooling resources and implementing a host of programs and policies, governments could curtail the spread of infectious viruses by 50 percent if the measures were implemented within a 27-year span, the paper said.
Of course, there's the matter of the price tag, which is more than South Africa's nominal gross domestic product and is nearly as large as the U.S. Defense Department's fiscal year 2015 budget.
In response to emailed questions by CNBC, co-author Peter Daszak said the money would be funneled into "mitigation programs" that isolate the first cluster of cases at their source. The funds would also be spent on hospitals and diagnostic labs in West Africa, and creating a web of information to identify and track diseases.
"There are [already] programs that do this," said Daszak, a disease ecologist who leads the EcoHealth Alliance in New York. "We're working with USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] on a program called 'PREDICT' where we are using development funds to build labs and train people in these 'hotspot' countries. DoD and other agencies are doing similar work."