Few countries are as exposed to the Zika outbreak as Brazil, where a major hit to tourism could cost a fragile economy billions of dollars. Laura Frykberg reports
The human impact is devastating enough. The Zika virus could spread even further though. The victim? Brazil's ailing economy, says Economics Professor, Geraint Johnes. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS AT LANCASTER UNIVERSITY, GERAINT JOHNES SAYING: "When SARS broke out in 2003 in South East China, we found tourism to the affected countries fell by 20 percent. Now in Brazil tourism accounts for around about 10 percent of GDP so this could amount to as much as 2 percent of GDP in terms of the hit that Brazil faces. In terms of dollars that's getting on about 50 billion dollars." Zika is thought to have infected more than a million Brazilians. It's been linked to the birth of thousands of babies with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains. Most contract the virus from mosquito bites, but two recent cases are from blood transfusions. That's led to fears the number of people with it could rise, scaring away travellers, and crippling upcoming tourism earners - like Rio de Janeiro's world famous festival. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS AT LANCASTER UNIVERSITY, GERAINT JOHNES SAYING: "Carnival is worth around half a billion dollars to the Brazil economy, in terms of tourism that is coming in. Whereas the Olympics could be anything from 15 to 25 billion dollars. So the Olympics, it's a major issue." Zika is being described as Brazil's worst public health crisis in living memory. It seems its financial wellbeing is also at huge risk.