Quest Means Business   « Back to Blog Main
April 27, 2009
Posted: 1953 GMT

I have a general rule in business journalism – never count dollars before lives. (Always worry about the effect on people before balance sheets or bank accounts.) I have been trying to stay close to this mantra as I cover the swine flu crisis. I am finding it hard to do so this time.

Because while the death and suffering of those who have caught the flu must be paramount, I can't forget that this crisis is taking place in the first global recession for 60 years.

The IMF is forecasting a downturn of at least 1.3 per cent globally, with much worse numbers in developed countries like the U.S. where the downturn could hit 3.5 percent this year.

According to the World Bank report two years ago, industries that are most affected are those like hotels, travel, tourism and restaurants. The very industries that have felt the brunt of the recession. So while there is never a good time to have a pandemic, this is a stunningly bad time.

When the EU health commissioner says that people should rethink travelling to Mexico AND the United States, then we are in getting into deep trouble. The transatlantic market is the most important single travel market in the world.

And, heaven forbid, if the crisis worsens in the U.S., so people are put off domestic travel – well,  the global slump which might have been slowing down, could get worse again.

A quick question for you. Have you changed your plans at all? or are you intending to take any special measures? Wear masks? I would like to know.

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Banking •Business •Profitable Moment •Quest Means Business

Share this on:
Steve Withers (@Linuxluver)   April 27th, 2009 8:02 pm ET

I might wait until there is more information on the severity of the swine flu. How contagious is it? How serious is it once you get? So far, the fatality rate is about 6.4%. That's 64,000 people out of every million. Definitely worth avoiding if it is contagious enough that people in the millions will get it.

Having said that, if it is serious and your immune system can't handle it, you're probably on borrowed time already anyway. Enjoy the holiday. It may be your last.

Marijn Rongen   April 27th, 2009 8:05 pm ET

As I put in a tweet you mentioned in QMB today I would not travel if not needed and wear a mask in medical facilities, but only if the virus is confirmed in the region.

I'm not really scared of this outbreak as I personally have overcome several severe illnesses. I have good faith in the capabilities of the health agencies if a local outbreak occurs.

Currn   April 27th, 2009 8:07 pm ET

Hi Richard,
Interesting analysis of the effects of flu on travel and recession.
Will mounting health care costs also be a factor in this
health and wealth crisis?
Kind Regards,
Pranay Darda

lauratheexpat   April 27th, 2009 8:12 pm ET

I am operating under the plan of "alert but calm." I am in good health so until otherwise advised, I merely will practice the same measures of good hygiene that I've always practiced. As far as travel is concerned–I don't have any wish to put myself in harm's way, but at the same time, I would have never traveled at all if I took all the cautions and caveats I've received about various locations to heart. The U.S. and Mexico are big countries. Should I refrain from travel everywhere within them because of what are still relatively localized outbreaks? If the outbreak spreads, then it warrants further consideration. For now, I'd go there and enjoy my trip.

samuel   April 27th, 2009 8:24 pm ET

I think you have a point there, I have travel plans to Denmark in 2 weeks, and I have already started monitoring reports on out breaks on my route there as well as the city I'll be visiting.

I do think if the pandemic continues people would postpone most travels in an effort to avoid catching the flu, but business travels would definitely continue except for countries that would be sealed off finally...

I would be taking along a face mask just in case though.

Am sure you've already heard of this but just resending the link again.. you might want to add it to the show tomorrow

Teriss   April 27th, 2009 8:26 pm ET

The cause of the swine flu in Mexico and bacteria we find in food and its production today is a result of poor governing and keeping our food supply safe. The government of the US is not inspecting foods nor has any regard for hygiene and this is how pandemics begin their cycle.
Witness the SARS flu which came from unsanitary chickens in China which spread throughout the world.
If governments do not pay serious attention to this matter we can expect the ongoing infectious diseases to kill people and make the drug manufacturers very happy.

John O'Neill   April 27th, 2009 8:43 pm ET

I was intending to take a few days in London next week, but now will not as I am afraid of getting sick away from home.

John O'Neill   April 27th, 2009 8:44 pm ET

I may cancel a few days' pleasure trip to London ( I live in Belfast) as I don't want to get sick away from home.

Regina Walton   April 27th, 2009 9:05 pm ET

Well, I went to Mexico on a cruise in late March/early April. We spent all of a few hours in Cabo San Lucas and then turned around to head back to L.A. It was just before this outbreak because people were more scared of being beheaded by warring drug cartels than by getting swine flu.

However, now, if I had the option to travel, I wouldn't go to Mexico. I'm in the States and just moved back home after living abroad in Asia for eight years, and I miss the crazy energy of the big Asian capitals, so I'd probably travel back there. But I don't think I'd not travel.

I'd just come armed with good hygiene habits, as it freaks me out to see people leave a rest room without washing their hands. That means doing what I always do. Seeing behavior like that brings out the germ-a-phobe in me: I don't touch anything in restrooms and, if I must, I have antibacterial gel. I just use more of it now. In church yesterday, it was comedy before and after communion 😉

Fred Cameron   April 27th, 2009 9:09 pm ET

We live in Sydney, Australia. The local press are doing their best to stir up sensationalist headlines but we not intend to get swept up in this.

c dunne   April 27th, 2009 9:11 pm ET

Still planning to fly to NYC this weekend, but have purchased a mask. It's in my my purse–for "just in case" scenarios. I got the last box of masks at my drugstore in Cgo yesterday.

twitter @onlyonelife

martha K   April 27th, 2009 9:15 pm ET

The hysteria over this is ridiculous and honestly, I'm beginning to think Big Pharma is behind it just to get a boost in their stocks...or maybe the GOP is trying to rekindle the fear people have lost since Bush left office. Whatever it is, it's artificial and totally uncalled for.

Frederique   April 27th, 2009 9:18 pm ET

I'm going to New York on Wednesday for a summer job and I do not think about changing my plans... well, it was too had to get the job and the Visa so I am morre happy than worried about going to the US!

I have no idea of what the situation is in the airports, I saw on the French news this evening that no warnings or recommendations were told to travellers, is it a lack of communication or a sign that the situation is not that worse in France and Europe? If am asked to wear a mask, then of course I will do so, but I don't think I will buy a remedy or something.

What is also problematic is that a lot of pork producers are in trouble in France nowadays, financially speaking, and I fear that it will worsen their situation.

Have a nice evening,

Anna - Poland   April 27th, 2009 9:31 pm ET

My mom was meant to be going to US in 3 weeks, the tickets have been booked already. Seeing her ill parents is very important for her but now we don't know what to do. How can the situation change within 3 weeks time? Can it be a lot worse?

Gretchen   April 27th, 2009 9:34 pm ET

No, I am not changing my plans, we are leaving for LA on next tuesday, but have asked alot of info from family(Drs. WHO Drs. included in this family) I am traveling from Norway to Southern California. They do not recomend any special travel advisory. But I do have a script for tamiflu.

Craig Eyles   April 27th, 2009 9:52 pm ET

The WHO has stated that travel must not be restricted as this would have an effect on the economy.
My big problem with this is that it's only become so widely reported since people in the US have caught it, but I'm glad we have access to both the US & European CNN so we can get both pictures.
Deaths are confirmed to a minimum (7 in Mexico as of an hour ago from the WHO) & none fo those have an age group for some reason.
Theory going around is that since global warming has been all but dubunked last week that we need a new scare.
BTW, have any pigs died from it recently??

matthew   April 27th, 2009 10:25 pm ET

I haven't been concerned about the new flu or the reccession. I feel we should just build our bodies up to the point where these diseases don't affect us to the point of death. With the reccession, it's a perfect time to get rich! I've been focused on building wealth and all the opportunitites that lie ahead. My girlfriend quit her job during this so called reccession. There are things we can do to start being in control. If you need an idea look at the cover of "success at home" magazine this month or go to We have the ability to be in control of every part of our lives!

Vacant Heart   April 27th, 2009 10:33 pm ET

A very interesting analysis. This outbreak eeriely reminds me of the SARS outbreak a few years back. Hope the situation improves real soon! Because, as you most rightly put it, this couldnt have come at a worse time.

Blond Rocker   April 28th, 2009 1:32 am ET

I'm traveling to London from NYC in 2 weeks to see "Slowhand" at the Rah. Wouldn't change my plans for ANYTHING – you see: Music is my medicine!
Take care all, do "air kisses" and wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday to You" song TWICE (I heard a dr say that on a health show).


Rikki, Fargo, ND   April 28th, 2009 4:03 am ET

I don't travel much and I don't live in a place where we get exposed to much so I don't intend on changing my plans at this point, not that I really had any. But even our President said that the level 4 Health Crisis alert is purely a precaution and he said that its ok to be concerned but we should not be alarmed at this point.

Remember there was a big to do about Avian Bird Flu and SARS becoming a pandemic and nothing became of it so I don't think we are at the point where we need to be overly concerned...

Peter Vaz   April 28th, 2009 4:31 am ET

Were the Mexican authorities counting on the huge World Bank aid dollars.....and multiplying on the deaths to create this catastrophe?....or waiting for the disaster to improve in order the WB to create a additional rescue funds? This is a man made disaster Professor Quest and it's gaining huge grounds in the USA and momentum globally. We need the huge "quest magnifying glass" to contain this flue or the poor the way why the world should be in such a haste...Mr. Obama declared yesterday for the Americans to be Alert at the door steps...No Alarms for anyone....we are carried away now by PIGS and before by the CEO's....are there any remaining crooked lane or street?

Samukele   April 28th, 2009 6:04 am ET

Very interesting and valid points there Richard.
I'm travelling in a few days to SA via the UAE and I'm just hoping that there are no new cases reported in the UAE before I go. I am seriously considering getting a mask though!

stegmann   April 28th, 2009 7:16 am ET

What a shoddy job last night on flu vaccine and drug companies that was, last nigtht- calling Tamiflu and Relenza vaccines, which they are not, not explaining that Tamiflu sells well and Relenza does not, and why, and singling out Mediumme as a vaccine maker- there might have been a good reason for that, as their vaccine is different, but they certainly aren't the most important market player

Dave Dawson   April 28th, 2009 9:02 am ET

Not even the Apocalypse will change my plans......

Wearing a surgical face mask won't change my plans.
I come from a very strange part of the World (Liverpool UK).
If you already know it, then you'll know we make light of EVERYTHING.
We're responsible for telling God absolutely loads of jokes.
Then, strangely, we go on holiday.
Our strange part of the World is involved in a little fixture at Wembley, London, known as the F.A. Cup Final (EVERTON F.C. V CHELSEA F.C.) soon.
How will Mexican Swine Flu affect the supporters of Everton F.C.?
No doubt, we'll be the ones wearing ROYAL BLUE surgical face masks.
The event will be watched globally, as you know Richard.
Only, this time, amid the chants of "Oh! When the Saints go marching in...", ALL will be listening for the MEXICAN SNEEZE.
So far, the forecast for Wembley is PATCHY SILENCE.
But then, there's the dreaded pollen count!
As I said, not even the Apocalypse will change my plans, so a cheap backpacking holiday to Turkey & possibly some of the surrounding Muslim countries is already on my cards.
Obviously, I'll take the surgical face mask with me.

suelin   April 28th, 2009 11:34 am ET

In a small island economy dependent on and in competition for tourism and airlift, dependent on imports and foreign direct investment to offset local business, subject to fall outs from world crises, pandemics and so on, I worry about money every weekend – in fact, every day. Grenada is more than a vacation destination it is a manufacturing destination in the making. Concrete movement towards this goal will cease my weekend war with my pocketbook.

Jan Mets, Athens, Greece   April 28th, 2009 11:45 am ET

I absolutely refuse to change my plans because of the outbreak. Experts tell us there are things we must do to stay healthy. I will strictly follow the instructions and carry on with my life, especially the flying part.

requiredreading   April 28th, 2009 12:27 pm ET

(puzzled) Do you invent these blogs? Also, aren't usually the people that die of a flu either very old or very young or very vulnerable to infection for other reasons (like An Immune Depression Somehow)?

I still think those of us that don't come under one of those headings need to wear masks, but if we get a flu, perhaps we should be even more careful than usual about our hygiene out of consideration for others? I haven't looked at the statistics lately, but I didn't think there were THAT many immune-depressed people out there.

However, is it possible that the swine flu affects those who are most hit by the recession the most, because they are malnourished and thus more susceptible and they can't afford the medication? That would have no relation to the tourism industry, though, so perhaps there are people who would consider it not that important then.

However, still puzzled, perhaps this debate is about something I am too naive to understand...

Michael   April 28th, 2009 4:31 pm ET


I have no money to worry about. However, more importantly:
Here in Tokyo it seems your show is on at 3AM. Could you have your show moved to a more tolerable hour? Preferably 5 in the afternoon, Tokyo time.

Dr. Lionel Mann   April 28th, 2009 4:38 pm ET

Why all this panic about swine-flu? Every year many more than one-hundred-million people die, about four every second, mainly of natural causes, of which swine flu is but the latest. Stop worrying – worry also kills. Enjoy life while you have it and don't complain when your turn to quit arrives. It is utterly ridiculous that swine-flu should in any way affect economic affairs; their disastrous state is the result of human idiocy, and that can be simply rectified; sack the ignorant morons responsible – every one of them!

Natasha   April 28th, 2009 6:28 pm ET

life in Madrid remains the same, the only mask we wear is that of complacency

lucienne Larrabure   April 28th, 2009 7:06 pm ET

Yes., of course these swine flu in a moment of world crisis and planet environment in emergency, made me change plans. Not only changing plans of vacation, travel, etc, but deeper than that...the plans may change for everyone, is time to focus in internal changes, such as living accordingly our planet requires, also this should make us pay more attention to all that is happening around us.....

Andrew   April 28th, 2009 7:32 pm ET

President Obama, Democrats & Republicans…

As an example of bipartisanship — The American People will compromise too…
Combine Medicare and Medicade with Universal Healthcare.
Offer it to all Americans. They can choose any doctor they wish to.
Charge a standard copay upon visit and for also for Rx.
Do this at the state level using valid state issued identification (i.e. state id or drivers license but NOT with federal health cards). Allow the states to run these programs but utilize a standardized system.


Just how many people actually get to use these TAX CREDITS that file with a 1040EZ form? Not a whole lot. We dont want or need all of these tax credits.

Abdelaziz   April 28th, 2009 11:12 pm ET

I don't worry about money, I continue to spend it and save a part.

MarieAnne Sam - Alabang in the Philippines   April 29th, 2009 4:43 am ET

Very dim scenario indeed! Pandemic amid recession! - hope this this not happen! Just increase your resistance against flu that had been mutated into some lethal strain!

We cannot do a lot about these - just stay home and be vigilant and tune in to CNN for updates! 🙂

mahesh dodhia   April 29th, 2009 6:19 am ET

beware of expenses a small leak can sink a large ship

Lea White   April 29th, 2009 2:31 pm ET

My family is living in Mexico and I am very concerned with the situation following the international news and knowing the information hasn’t been spread accurately in my country.

The shortage of Tamiflu and other effective antibiotics is drastic and some institutions and professionals are adopting drastic measures. I recently received a heads up that some institutions in Mexico are doing a cocktail of Tamiflu with other medicines and giving it to people arguing it's more effective, I am very worried about this. Secondly I was told that medicines for Aids and Cancer have been recommended as well, I was shocked, I am not an expert, but I had an ant which was taking chemotherapy and I learned it kill cancer bacteria but it takes the defenses of the body down, imagine!!
All these things brought me to the inevitable thoughts of the black market of medicines in Mexico (not even the generic) are they going to profit of this situation?

Hope media can help to confirm these false medical prescriptions and inform accurately the people.

James Donohue   April 29th, 2009 4:25 pm ET

My wife and I have three kids and live in the UK although are originally are from the US. Mexico is a great country and its people are amazing the horrible events of swine flue are affecting only a small portition of the population. We would fly there on holiday in an instant. Not going to Mexico on holiday would like not going to Washington DC because of the gun violence. Look at the numbers people, going to Mexico is more safe then many activities we do ever day.

Vasilis   April 30th, 2009 11:26 am ET

Hi Richard... I don't know if you are still following this post topic, but here is my 2 cents worth and perhaps you might even have words of wisdom to offer me.
I am about to leave Germany for a month long trip to the USA that will take me via Boston, New York, Miami, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. I have been watching closely to see if any news would present itself that tells me I should not go. Unfortunately, nothing in the news is very definitive.
As a side note, my masters thesis was about pandemics and international organization! I am very educated on the potential for this situation to get very bad, very fast. That alone should make me stay put, but as you well note, the financial circumstances now make it difficult to just blow off the whole trip. I am still planning on going.
My overall concerns are these... 1) even though there is much talk about NOT restricting international travel, the truth is that restricting international travel is a factor in almost every state pandemic plan, including the USA domestically. My concern is that I will get to the USA, but then be prevented from returning to Europe enduring an unknown cost while waiting to return. Nothing in the media is a good indicator as to if or when countries may decide to change their current policy and close airports. The good news is that I have relatives that I can live with in most of the places I am going if I am forced to. For any of your viewers, they need to consider that their return may be canceled for one reason or another. 2) My other concern is the cost of health care. My health insurance covers me 100% in Germany. But I have no meaningful coverage in the USA and the fact remains that the USA is notoriously expensive for good health care. Anybody going anywhere, has to consider if they will have the care necessary for being treated if hospitals are overcrowded and resources limited or expensive. My own response is to travel with my own stock of Tamiflu (which I have done ever since I completed my Masters thesis in 2007). And needless to say I am religious about good hygiene practices and social distancing.
Any good advice you have about the chance of being restricted from returning home to Europe is welcome!

Teriss   May 1st, 2009 5:01 pm ET

People used to be afraid of getting their heads blow off by drug cartels in Mexico, now its a swine (N1H1) flu bug. I think the media is blowing this right out of proportion. As of yesterday case numbers diagnosed with N1H1 are reducing in numbers and the summer heat also will end the season of flu and colds. In the fall as we get to cooler weather -it is expected to resurface. Amazing how they can predict the cycles of flu but not do enough to handle viruses in populations. Also this brings forth the need of national health care in the USA which many Republicans are against. President Obama is trying to change that -for the betterment of all people-and the economy.
Note to Vasilis: I think your trip would be relatively a mild risk of catching the swine flu, IF you have a strong immune system. Build up on your Vitamin C, D, E, and a healthy diet. Your time of risk is in confined areas, planes, trains, etc., where you can wear a good mask.
Avoid people sneezing around you or coughing in your air space.

Other than that- buy a trip health insurance plan before you leave that covers you in the USA. Hope you have a pleasant trip.

Mark French   May 4th, 2009 3:43 am ET

Get your program on CNN over here in the states. We do not get enough news from Europe and around the world om US CNN. See if the international CNN can get back on the air here.

Comments have been closed for this article

Powered by VIP