A flu-like illness could spread around the world in just 36 hours and kill 80million people, global health experts have warned.

The grim emergency is highlighted in a new report which says the world is facing a mounting threat of disease pandemics that could wipe out millions and wreak havoc on economies.

The report cited the 1918 "Spanish flu" pandemic, which killed an estimated 50million people.

If a similar outbreak happened now the death toll would be even worse and the disease would spread much faster given the vast numbers of people crossing the world on planes every day, the experts warned.

An equivalent air-borne outbreak now could spread globally in less than 36 hours and kill an estimated 50million to 80million people.

Such a pandemic would wipe out nearly five per cent of the global economy and destabilise security in the affected countries, according to the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB).

In the case of a pandemic, many national health systems – particularly in poor countries – would collapse.

The report contained a world map showing examples of emerging and re-emerging diseases which could trigger an outbreak – from human monkeypox and H1N1 influenza to Ebola and plague.

Governments should work to prepare for and mitigate that risk, said the GPMB, co-convened by the World Bank and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It warned that epidemic-prone viral diseases like Ebola, flu and SARS are increasingly tough to manage in a world dominated by lengthy conflicts, fragile states and forced migration.

The report, named A World At Risk, stated: "The threat of a pandemic spreading around the globe is a real one.

"A quick-moving pathogen has the potential to kill tens of millions of people, disrupt economies and destabilise national security."

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