NEW YORK (HedgeWorld.com)–Depending on the news reports one reads, the avian flu may or may not be on the verge of exploding into a global pandemic.
As it stands right now, no one knows if or when the avian influenza strain will mutate to a form that enables it to spread quickly among human populations, or how serious the resulting illness would be if such a form did develop. However, businesses in the financial services sector should already be in the process of implementing pandemic-related business continuity plans, according to Alex Tabb, director of crisis and continuity services practice at Tabb Group, a Westborough, Mass.-based research and advisory firm to the financial industry.
In a speech before the 2006 Business Continuity and Corporate Security Show and Conference on March 22, Mr. Tabb likened the potential economic impact of a global pandemic to the effects of the southeast Asian tsunami of 2004, the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid, and Hurricane Katrina. For the financial services industry, he stressed a “managed transition” to the Global Influenza Preparedness Plan laid out by the World Health Organization.
In an interview, Mr. Tabb noted that the WHO plan is a document geared toward national governments rather than businesses. However, the plan sets out a yardstick by which firms can measure the spread of avian influenza–a series of six steps that financial services providers can use to put in place their business continuity provisions in a timely fashion.
The six steps outlined in the WHO preparedness plan, available on the WHO web site here, are:
?? 1/2 Phase one: No new influenza virus subtypes are detected in humans;
?? 1/2 Phase two: New influenza subtypes begin to circulate in animal populations;
?? 1/2 Phase three: New influenza subtypes infect humans, but with little to no human-to-human transmission;
?? 1/2 Phase four: Small clusters of human-to-human transmission begin, but remain highly localized;
?? 1/2 Phase five: Larger clusters of human-to-human transmission develop, but remain localized;
?? 1/2 Phase six: The influenza subtype achieves pandemic levels, with increased and sustained transmission among the general population.
Right now, Mr. Tabb said, the influenza subtype H5N1, known as avian or bird flu, is at phase three–there are known cases of humans becoming infected with H5N1, and possible isolated cases of human-to-human transmission. He is urging his clients to begin preparing business continuity measures if they haven’t already done so.