Monday, April 27, 2009

Pandemic Preparedness

With concern rising rapidly worldwide about swine flu, following reports of 140 deaths from the illness in Mexico, and over 40 confirmed cases in the U.S. - as reported in this article in the New York Times-the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Government agencies, and governments worldwide have stepped up warnings and travel advisories regarding the swine flu.
Over the weekend, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO said the swine flu has 'pandemic potential' (Transcript), and this evening there was a Statement by the World Health Organization that WHO has raised the Pandemic Alert level from Phase 3 (levels 1-3 are predominantly animal infections) to Phase 4 (sustained human-to-human transmission.). (NOTE: The current alert level - Level 4 - is below Levels 5 and 6 which signify widespread human infection.) This evening, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a Travel Health Warning against nonessential travel to Mexico, following yesterday's announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: HHS Declares Public Health Emergency for Swine Flu. There were also reports earlier today that Europe had issued a travel warning against nonessential travel to the U.S. and Mexico, reports later this evening indicated any such warning in Europe may have been rescinded (at least with respect to travel to the U.S.), as reported by Donald G. McNeil, Jr. in his article on the New York Times website: Avoid Mexico, Traveler's Are Told, As Flu Toll Mounts. And, the Washington Post is reporting tonight: U.S. Lawmakers To Examine Swine Flu Response

As noted in the White House Blog, earlier today, President Barack Obama spoke at the National Academies of Sciences' Annual Meeting. According to the transcript of the President's remarks, Obama said this regarding the situation [note: his remarks were delivered at 9:12 am, and as noted above, the situation continues to evolve]:

"[I]f there was ever a day that reminded us of our shared stake in science and research, it's today. We are closely monitoring the emerging cases of swine flu in the United States. And this is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert. But it's not a cause for alarm. The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency as a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively. And I'm getting regular updates on the situation from the responsible agencies. And the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control will be offering regular updates to the American people. And Secretary Napolitano will be offering regular updates to the American people, as well, so that they know what steps are being taken and what steps they may need to take.But one thing is clear -- our capacity to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community. And this is one more example of why we can't allow our nation to fall behind."

What does the swine flu threat mean in a practical sense? People are wondering - parsing the words in statements issued by official authorities - is this an emergency? A potential emergency? How should they deal with it?

Pandemic Preparedness
The need for preparedness in the event of potential pandemics and other catastropic events has been a topic covered periodically in Financial Executive magazine, published by FEI. We provide links to related articles below, which you may find useful resources in contemplating if you and your business are adequately prepared for such potential events.

Ellen M. Heffes, Editor-in-Chief of the Financial Executive magazine notes, "It’s been said we live in a crisis society, which too often involves planning when the crisis is upon us! In today’s environment, businesses can’t afford the unintended interruption that crises entail. Indeed, organizations need to be proactive in taking steps to always be prepared … since even if the crisis doesn’t occur, you’ll still be way ahead of the game. Whether preparation for a hurricane, blizzard, flu or biological attack, the fundamental principles of business continuity don’t change, but they do get updated with new technologies and capabilities."

The links to the Financial Executive magazine articles below can be viewed by FEI members and nonmembers alike; members will be prompted to enter your member login; nonmembers can create a free login account for the magazine only, which will enable you to read these and other articles. (Nonmembers-learn more about FEI; and FEI membership.)

UPDATE April 28, 2009
Links to additional information on swine flu preparedness

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