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Volume 27, Issue 4

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Avian Flu: Special Report

The Avian flu is the current frontrunner for causing potential widespread damage. This flu, also known as the H5N1 virus, has been detected in more than 50 countries and has killed more than 120 people.

While human-to-human transfer has not yet occurred, scientists and medical experts are keeping a close watch on the virus. There is disagreement over the severity of a potential virus outbreak. Some experts predict as many as 300 million deaths worldwide. Others say the pandemic would not take such a high toll.

Business continuity planners are also keeping a vigilant eye on the changing situation. In this issue, you will find several articles written by and for planning professionals. The authors vary on their opinions of the virus and the threat it poses. But they do agree that planning needs to be done.
In each article, you will find insight into areas that will require attention in order to fully protect your organization from the impact of a pandemic.

Some areas of concern include:
Absenteeism – Organizations must plan for a reduced work force if a pandemic strikes. Employees will be ill; others will need to be home to care for ill family members. Schools may be closed and childcare will be unable. Others will be afraid to travel and risk exposure to illness. Estimates for the number of absent employees range from 10 percent to as much as 50 percent.

Telecommuting – Allowing employees to work from home will be an important step when preparing for a pandemic. Employers should plan now the necessary equipment, technology and services needed to keep key employees productive.

Crisis Communication – Employers must put in place a system to communicate with all employees. Contact information should be updated and alternate methods of communication should be designated. In addition, organizations will need plans in place to communicate with the media.
Insurance – Businesses should examine their insurance policies to determine if their business interruption insurance could apply if a pandemic were to strike. Policies vary widely in what catalysts for closure or temporary shutdowns will be covered.

Public/Private Cooperation – Government officials have said most of the response to a pandemic will come from the local level. Organizations must plan now to coordinate with local officials for emergency response, civil disturbances, and other interruptions.

There are numerous other areas that each organization needs to examine while preparing for a pandemic. It is important to continually research the situation and stay abreast of any changes that may be occurring. By reading a variety of opinions on the pandemic’s potential for destruction, planners can gain insight into areas of concern which they might not have considered before.

With a subject as broad as a pandemic, predictions and media hype are bound to surface. Some information on the subject is exaggerated and skewed to benefit a company, product, or service. It is important to look past the hype and make sure that you are relying on competent, current information.

DRJ is striving to make this task easier for our readers. In addition to the reliable information you will find in our magazine, we have launched a Web site dedicated to Avian flu and other pandemic information.

This Web page contains a wealth of information on the subject, as well as links to government reports, the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and more. Downloads of white papers and presentations are also available. In addition, you can view archived articles from DRJ concerning pandemics and their potential damage.

You can access this information at http://www.drj.com/special/avian/.

"Appeared in DRJ's Summer 2006 Issue"

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