With an ongoing outbreak of Ebola in West Africa shows no sign of slowing, AIR Worldwide predicted business interruption losses in a number of areas, but questions whether existing coverage will be adequate to address the issue.

“Business interruption is most likely to occur in mining, agricultural, energy, chocolate and travel sectors that have a strong presence in the affected West African countries,” the Boston-based catastrophe-modeling firm said in a recent media advisory. “However, it is unclear what, if any of these losses are covered by existing insurance policies, especially since business interruption policies typically require physical damage to a location.”

Existing travel insurance policies in force may also not adequately cover Ebola-related West Africa losses, AIR Worldwide said.

“Basic travel insurance often only provides coverage in the event of weather, worker layoffs, or death of a travel companion,” AIR Worldwide noted. “Some forms of travel insurance allow the covered party to cancel for any reason, though these are typically much more expensive.”

Insurance companies themselves may face some big-time loss risks, AIR Worldwide said, assuming they have investments in companies with strong ties to West Africa.

“Last week the World Bank provided stress testing economic loss scenarios related to the Ebola outbreak. Their severe scenario resulted in over $30 billion in lost economic output from 2014-2015,” AIR Worldwide said in its media alert. “They also noted that this loss is more driven out of “fear of contagion than a direct result of the outbreak.”

Whether or not fear of Ebola is overshadowing the depth of the actual outbreak, it is still creating a lot of trouble.

AIR Worldwide noted in its update that Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone remain the countries most affected by the current outbreak, along with isolated cases and small clusters in Senegal, Nigeria, the United States and Spain. And the U.S. and Spain remain the only countries outside of Africa with confirmed Ebola transmission – with secondary cases coming from healthcare workers who helped treat Ebola patients.

All of that said, predictions of how big the outbreak will eventually become vary widely, AIR Worldwide concluded based on vastly different modeling results.

AIR Worldwide cites numbers from the World Health Organization predicting 20,000 cases globally by early November. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, sees 200,000 cases erupting by the end of 2014. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects up to 500,000 cases by the end of January 2015, with most coming from West Africa, AIR Worldwide said. It is hard to pick the most accurate estimate, however. As AIR Worldwide pointed out, the different catastrophe models have big differences in their assumptions and methods.

WHO, as of Oct. 15, 2014, reported 8,997 Ebola cases and 4,493 deaths, though AIR Worldwide said the numbers could be much higher “due to significant under-reporting.”

Source: AIR Worldwide

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