This will most likely be the first of many updates in regards to the recent A (H1N1) outbreak. As of this morning, the World Health Organization reported that U.S. A (H1N1) patients may have transmitted the virus to others in the U.S., which means it is not only being transmitted from people travelling back from Mexico, but has essentially found a new host country. Not good news.
With this in mind, businesses should begin thinking about their rarely used contingency plans. Below, Contingency Solutions, a business continuity and emergency planning firm, has provided a few updates for businesses:
- CDC continues to assist Mexican health officials in the investigation.
- Major public events in Mexico have been cancelled and schools have been closed. Mexican death toll is currently 149.
- U.S. confirmed cases include: 28 in New York City, 7 in California, 2 in Texas (and one additional suspected case in TX), 2 in Kansas and 1 in Ohio.
- This is a new strain and flu shots from this past season will not offer protection.
- The World Health Organization has raised its pandemic alert for A (H1N1) by one level to phase 4, two steps short of declaring a full-blown pandemic. Says: Flu containment is not feasible. Phase 4 alert means sustained human-to-human transmission is causing outbreaks in at least one country.
- No U.S. travel restrictions are currently posted.
- No border restrictions are currently in effect.
DHS Secretary Napolitano said the U.S. is proceeding as if it were preparing for a full pandemic.
“Everybody is getting prepared, everybody is leaning forward, everybody’s dusting off their pandemic flu preparation plans in case this is in fact a major pandemic,” she said.
But is there really something to fear here? According to today’s BBC’s report, many of the UK’s leading experts on flu think this outbreak will not be as devastating as expected, though they caution it’s still too early to tell.
It’s time to dust off your business continuity plan and be ready in case it needs to be activated. Elements which may be of high priority include the means for employees to work from home, moving to a reduced travel mode (substituting web based meetings etc.), dealing with increased absenteeism due to employee reluctance to commute by train, bus or subway and, of course, keeping the lines of communication (internal and external) open.
For more information about the A (H1N1) outbreak, you can check out MSNBC’s thorough coverage (which includes the map below) and the instant updates provided by the following agencies:
Do you feel this is something that will develop into a pandemic and require companies to resort to their contingency plans?