Spain confirmed Europe’s first case of swine flu today as the EU announced an emergency health ministers’ meeting to prepare for the possibility of a global pandemic.
Fears of the potential impact on tourism and travel have set travel and airline shares tumbling. Among the hardest hit were British Airways (falling over 12 percent at one point) and TUI Travel (down over 7 percent).
In contrast the outbreak sent pharmaceutical groups soaring amid an expected pick-up in flu drug sales as the death toll in Mexico reaches 100, with possible cases reported as far afield as New Zealand, Israel and Scotland.
Mexico has been granted emergency loans from the World Bank of $205m to help cope with the crisis.
Mexican finance minister Agustin Carstens said that the outbreak could have a big impact on the country’s economy, although it was too soon to say how significant the effect might be.
“This issue can have an important impact on the economy, although the most important impact is the one on human life and human well being,” he said after a meeting on Sunday of the IMF and World Bank’s joint Development Committee.
Authorities from across the world were scrambling to contain a new strain of swine flu. The virus has spread across the border to the United States with at least 20 cases confirmed, prompting the Obama Administration to declare a public health emergency and release 12 million doses of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu. Six cases were also confirmed in Canada and outbreaks are also suspected in Israel, France and New Zealand.