Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pandemic in Progress?

Today may have been the tipping point: people are starting to get very worried about the swine-flu breakout in Mexico that is starting to spread around the world.

Health authorities in Canada and elsewhere have long considered a flu pandemic to be inevitable. (They normally occur every 30-40 years, and we're long overdue.)

I had a conversation on this subject with a municipal health official just last Tuesday. He said Toronto, having been a centre of the SARS epidemic, was well prepared to respond to a pandemic. But when I asked him if business was well prepared with contingency and continuity plans, he just grimaced and shook his head.

Time for a reality check. A new pandemic (or perhaps just the fear of one) will harm many businesses. If people are afraid to congregate in groups, or even go outside, how will that affect your company? Who will buy your products? How will you get work done if half your employees decide to stay home? How will it affect your supply chian? What if things get worse?

You need a plan now.

In case of pandemic, public authorities may impose such controls as social distancing, school closures and restriction, cancellation of large public gatherings, travel restrictions and border measures. Let's hope things don't get out of hand, but prepare just in case they do.

Reassure your employees. Adopt work-at-home plans. Examine the potential impact of closed borders, reduced travel, hoarding of food and water, consumers declining to shop (or go anywhere, for that matter), the sobering costs of fear and doubt. Let's hope none of this happens. But as the Scouts say, Be Prepared.

Three Globe stories today on swine flu developments:

* Swine flu confirmed in Canada

* Mexico on edge as reports of swine flu cases climb

* Flu fears prompt quarantine plans, pork bans

Download the INFLUENZA PANDEMIC: Continuity Planning Guide for Canadian Business, from Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

Download the City of Toronto Pandemic Influenza Plan

It may well be that all we have to fear is fear itself. But look how the news has these people Twittering already. (I did a Twitter search for "pandemic" - these posts all took place in just 5 minutes. The fear and doubt are just starting:

askool: Who else in the central valley is a bit paranoid about this Swine Flu pandemic? #swineflu
half a minute ago from Tweetie · Reply · View Tweet

CivilActivist: RT @Alonis: IN: (AP) State officials say IN is prepared 4 a swine flu pandemic, altho they haven't seen any cases of the illness thr.
1 minute ago from TweetDeck · Reply · View Tweet

SativaDreams: For info on the pig>bird>human flu pandemic go to Alex Jones' Is this a weapon?
1 minute ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

TrustedAdvice: WHO says world better prepared to deal with possible pandemic
1 minute ago from FriendFeed · Reply · View Tweet

blueair: RT @ajkeen "kill 2 birds with one stone: understand Internet & pandemic with one bk RT @gleonhard: "read 'The Power of Network" by Cushman'"
1 minute ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

damiendamien: Bruce Sterling, smartest person I can conceive by a light year quells my pandemic doomlust (expand)
2 minutes ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

srlm: UN warns outbreak of SWINE FLU in mexico might become a GLOBAL pandemic.
2 minutes ago from TwitterFox · Reply · View Tweet

plutoniumpage: Apparently, Bobby Jindal is giving a press conference on the swine flu. "Something about 'pandemic monitoring..." (I made that quote up.)
2 minutes ago from Nambu · Reply · View Tweet

KellyHK: Thanks GOP for trying to BLOCK pandemic preparedness. Do the words Captain Tripps mean anything to you wingnuts? (expand)
2 minutes ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

Alonis: Indiana: (AP) State officials say Indiana is prepared for a swine flu pandemic, although they haven't seen any cases of the illness there.
2 minutes ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

Campus68: With current fears of swine flu emerging around the world, here's a live report from Dec 68, during the last flu pandemic: (expand)
3 minutes ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

soozarty: @robluketic I'm w/ u r: swine flu concerns. The last pandemic (1917-8) killed 40 million. & that was b4 airplanes.
4 minutes ago from mobile web · Reply · View Tweet

singaporenews: Gauge pandemic plans, take preventive steps: THE swine flu outbreak in Mexico brings back memories of the 2003 S.. (expand)
4 minutes ago from twitterfeed · Reply · View Tweet

jreed: @briska so zombies in one city, epidemic. Zombies in major cities in north america, pandemic?
4 minutes ago from txt · Reply · View Tweet

NeilGilbert: Is it time to be worried about a flu pandemic yet?
5 minutes ago from TwitterFon · Reply · View Tweet

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