What would happen to your business if 40% of your employees stayed home for two straight weeks?

It could happen.  The cause: the Flu Pandemic.

Will there be a Flu Pandemic in the United States?  YES.

Experts worldwide know that avian flu, also known as bird flu or the H5N1 virus, will become transmittable by humans; the question is simply when.
Closer Than Ever

The world is now closer to an influenza pandemic than any other time since 1968, when the last pandemic occurred.

The World Health Organization is comparing the avian flu to that of the 1918 Spanish flu, the deadliest disease in human history.

The 1918 Spanish Flu
* infected over one-fifth of the world population,
* killed between 20 and 40 million people worldwide,
* killed over 675,000 people in the United States,
* infected over 20,000 Georgians in under 3 weeks, and
* killed over 500 Georgians in under 3 weeks.

The final death count for the Spanish flu will never be known; officials were too overwhelmed to reach a final tally.
Avian Flu is Deadlier than the Spanish Flu

The fatality rate in 1918 for the Spanish flu was between 2.5 and 5%.  Currently, the fatality rate for the avian flu is 57%.

Global spread of the flu pandemic is inevitable.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate the Spanish flu circled the globe in as little as 12 months.  In 1918, the population was much smaller and people traveled far less frequently.  Today, the flu pandemic will spread much faster than any pandemic in our history.
The Healthy are at Greatest Risk

Unlike the seasonal flu, which is of greatest concern to the sick and elderly, the pandemic flu will be deadliest in otherwise healthy individuals, most between the ages of 15 and 35.

As of August 8, 2006, the avian flu virus has already infected 235 people, killing more than 137.

Despite recent media reports that indicate a reduced likelihood of the H5N1 virus causing the next pandemic, experts at the CDC stress that the threat of a flu pandemic is still high and the public must remain diligent in their preparation.
Preparation for the Flu in Georgia

State and local governments will not be able to rely on the federal government for aid when the pandemic occurs, they must be ready with their own plan of action.  State agencies including

* The Georgia Department of Human Resources,
* The Georgia Division of Public Health, and
* The Georgia Department of Agriculture

are continuously revising Georgia’s Standard Operating Plan for preparedness and response to a pandemic outbreak.  However, you cannot rely on the state to protect and aid your family or business.

Individual Responsibility

It is critical that everyone plan for the pandemic.  Social disruption could be widespread which would lead to a number of disruptions including:

* Utility services including electricity, gas, water and sewer systems        
* may all be interrupted.
* Essential services such as banks, stores, restaurants, government        
* offices, pharmacies and post offices could all be closed.
* Schools will likely be closed.
* Transportation services may be disrupted.
* Going to work may be difficult, if not impossible.

Hospitals will experience critical shortages of health professionals.  In a survey performed by Johns Hopkins Bloomsburg School of Public Health, researchers found that more than 40% of public health care workers would stay home during a pandemic.

Plans designed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services call for everyone to stockpile at least one-two weeks of food and water.  Reece & Associates had informal conversations with experts who suggest stockpiling 6-8 weeks worth of food and other necessities may be necessary.

Impact on Businesses

The seasonal flu costs about $10 billion a year in lost productivity and direct medical expenses.

The World Bank predicts the impact of the pandemic flu on the world economy will be up to $800 billion.  As a comparison, insured, uninsured, and infrastructure damage estimates from Hurricane Katrina range between $81 and $200 billion.

The virus will cause rapid, widespread illness and a substantial number of deaths, and businesses will have little or no time to react.  Companies will suffer from significant shortages of personnel that could last for two months or longer.  Currently, there is no vaccine available; when it is available, it will be in short supply and unequally distributed.
Get Prepared

Reece & Associates is committed to keeping you informed about avian influenza and its potential impact to Georgia’s economy.  Several of our clients, including BellSouth, Intercontinental Hotels Group and JM Family Enterprises have already begun preparing their businesses for the forthcoming flu pandemic.  

Please e-mail us and let us know if you would be interested in attending a Roundtable discussion with high-level state and federal pandemic experts to learn how to minimize the pandemic’s impact on your home and business.

More information can be obtained from the following websites:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Georgia Division of Public Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization

Johns Hopkins Bloomsburg School of Public Health

Email Wayne Reece