The World Bank says the Ebola outbreak could have a catastrophic impact on the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
It expects the virus’s impact could “grow eight-fold” in the “already fragile states”, and that billions of dollars could be drained from the countries hardest hit by the end of 2015.
However, it says the cost can be limited if the epidemic – and the accompanying fear – is contained by a fast global response.
Ebola has killed 2,461 people in West Africa – the largest ever outbreak.
The World Bank’s analysis is that in a worst case scenario, economic growth next year could be reduced by 2.3 per cent in Guinea, 8.9 per cent in Sierra Leone and 11.7 per cent in Liberia in 2015.
Productivity has dropped in sectors of the economy such as agriculture and mining as a result of quarantine measures, and because of fears about the spread of the disease. Many people are working less, and earning and spending less as a result, fuelling poverty.
The report emphasised that fear of the disease was having a bigger economic impact than the “direct costs” imposed by the epidemic.