Since 1 June 2009, the H1N1 flu has been classified as a pandemic. Is it an imminent threat or just a smoke screen? What's the real story?
A flu pandemic is an epidemic that affects an exceptionally significant segment of the population and is present over a large geographic area. It is characterized by the appearance of a new virus that the population has little or no immunity to, in comparison to traditional winter flu strains.
Even if the H1N1 virus is just a nasty flu right now, and is nothing like the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which is extremely dangerous and even fatal for humans, it is nonetheless still highly contagious.
It seems that the H1N1 flu, also known as swine flu, can't be stopped anymore, having now infected all continents and 143 countries. In July 2009, the World Health Organisation counted over 100,000 cases and over 440 worldwide deaths attributed to the flu. Without intervention by a nation's health authorities, several million cases could develop, with successive waves of contamination, each potentially lasting 8 to 12 weeks long. This virus is spreading at an unprecedented speed. While a traditional flu takes 6 months to spread, the new H1N1 virus took less than six weeks to cover the entire planet.
Apart from the obvious health risks, what does the arrival of a flu pandemic mean for businesses?
Consequences could include:
- a high rate of employee absenteeism, and therefore reduced productivity,
- management decisions that can't be made when managers aren't present,
- delays in financial procedures,
- slowdowns for suppliers, subcontractors, and customers,
- overwhelmed and slower-functioning public services including communications, transportation and health services.
Companies throughout the world must be prepared for a possible wave of flu cases in early autumn, with a peak in mid-autumn. This virus is not very dangerous, but highly contagious. Office absenteeism could see rates reaching 50 to 60%. This is in contrast to the traditional winter flu virus, which usually affects considerably fewer people.
Continuing to work through a pandemic is not something one can improvise. Some national health authorities have therefore asked companies to prepare business operation plans that deal with two aspects:
- putting measures into place to ensure continued operations,
- informing and distributing health protection measures to employees.
Numerous crisis management units have been set up in companies to deal with this issue, and IT departments are on the front lines!
To be continued...
more info about H1N1 flu pandemic-orange response