WASHINGTON, D.C. - Not since WWII helped bring America out of the Great Depression has a crisis offered so much hope of economic salvation.
Immediately following the World Health Organization's announcement of the impending swine flu epidemic on April 24, Americans have been clamoring for preventative supplies. As people scratch and claw their way through thick crowds, masks, respirators, sanitizers, thermometers, and medicines have been flying off store shelves with breakneck speed, and suppliers are having a hard time keeping pace.
"Our orders have increased nearly a hundred-fold in just the last week," says Joe Manufacturer, supervisor of a plant that produces Breathe EZ sanitary facemasks.
Joe's plant is not alone. Sales of swine flu related supplies, as well as an influx of consumer money into the healthcare industry in general, has spurred the Dow Jones to modest but steady gains since April 24, and that's beginning to carry over to other sectors of the economy. Similar trends appear to be occurring in other major stock market indices around the world.
Some prominent economists say the trend toward moderate but steady gains actually began nearly a month ago, and may be a first sign the new stimulus plan is beginning to work. However, most experts agree that this explanation has nowhere near the sensationalist impact of a story about a sometimes fatal disease spurring the economy.