The thought of the Ebola Virus turning into a global pandemic isn’t exactly something to look forward to, but at this point it is certainly a possibility, even though it is primarily contained within West Africa. This last week there was cause for alarm when a man in Dallas was diagnosed with Ebola and was active within the community for at least a week prior to being confined. This is exactly the type of scenario that can turn ugly quickly, particularly should it happen more and more frequently.
Why is it a Big Deal?
It’s primarily a big deal because Ebola doesn’t have a cure (yet) and because it has such a high mortality rate. If you do happen to get Ebola, you have about a 50% chance of survival with the current strain going around. I don’t really like those odds, so prevention/avoidance is an obvious first choice.
If you want to get a good timeline of events as they have happened, take a look at this website. The really scary thing for me is that the amount of people getting infected seems to be doubling every 3 weeks. Now you don’t need to be a mathematician to work out that it doesn’t take too long before you are talking about millions of people being impacted.
Business Financial Impacts
The Spanish flu in 1918 gives us a great insight into just how big the financial consequences of a global pandemic can be. There are plenty of reports about the event in terms of human life and financial burden, but the world was a different place back then. For one, there was a gigantic world war raging, and two – we have just been through the GFC, and to be frank, we haven’t really recovered at all.
The company where I work has close to 900 people, most of whom are degree qualified with many years of specialist industry experience. Should 50% of the people perish due to Ebola, then replacing that number of people with others who are appropriately skilled would be a gigantic task, particularly when every other company in a similar situation would be trying to do the same thing. The potential impact could be massive, particularly considering how fragile the financial system is, and that is where I think it will impact the not just companies, but families too.
Personal Financial Impacts
We all know the financial system is pretty much broken. Most governments, companies and individuals are burdened with large amounts of debt and for many, there is no prospect of ever paying it back. Now consider Ebola coming into the mix and killing off half of all the people you know. I think about my family, if 50% of us were to go in a short period of time it would be devastating. If I was to be struck down, how would my wife cope, would my son have any parents to look after him, would he even survive?
I have always assumed that should something unforeseen happen to me, then my life insurance would be able to keep both my wife and son going for long enough so that they would be able to get back onto their feet. However in the event of a 50% wipe out of human life, I just don’t think the financial companies could handle that big of a burden all at once. I suspect most of them would fold in just a few weeks.
All the assets that are worth so much today, would be worth next to nothing under this scenario, things like shares and property (where much of the wealth is stored) would be close to worthless as people get out to conserve their wealth. It really isn’t a pretty picture, but it does tell me that I shouldn’t rely on things like insurance, or my existing assets to keep my family financially secure in the event of a global pandemic happening.
Hopefully everything all gets contained and there is nothing to worry about, but I think it is good to have at least thought about the consequences of things not going to plan, so that you are at least 1 step ahead of the pack if a worst case scenario does unfold.
I would love to know your thoughts on this topic. What would you do if things take a turn for the worse?