Ebola isn't just killing people. It's ravaging West Africa's economy.

Ebola isn't just killing people. It's ravaging West Africa's economy.
(Image credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

The Ebola virus is a vicious illness in which victims bleed from the eyes, mouth, and other bodily orifices. The ongoing outbreak is already the worst in history, with a death toll that has topped more than 1,200 as of Tuesday, according to figures compiled by the World Health Organization.

What's less widely known are the effects of Ebola on the economies of the countries afflicted by the outbreak, which include Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria. As David Francis of Foreign Policy writes:

The World Bank estimates that Guinea's GDP will shrink between 3.5 and 4.5 percent this year as Ebola roils the agricultural sector and discourages regional trade. Liberia's finance minister, Amara Konneh, lowered the country's GDP estimates by 5.9 percent because of the outbreak. Bismarck Rewane, CEO of the Financial Derivatives Company, a Lagos-based financial advisory and research firm that manages $18 million in assets, told CNBC Africa on Monday, Aug. 18, that Nigeria could lose at least $3.5 billion of its $510 billion GDP. Moody's has already warned that the virus could hinder the region's energy sector. [Foreign Policy]

He adds that the total damage will remain unknown until the outbreak is over, but "[i]f history is any indication, the blow is likely to be enormous and disproportionate to the death toll. For instance, the 2003 SARS outbreak, which killed 800 people, inflicted some $50 billion in damages to the global economy, according to the Economist. Ebola could be even worse."

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