North American life insurance companies are not as well prepared as their international counterparts for a possible avian influenza pandemic, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted during the first two weeks of April by LOMA, an association of life insurance companies, was based on responses from 155 members in North America and in the rest of the world. More than one-quarter of respondents were outside North America, chiefly Asia, says LOMA, Atlanta.

About one-third of North American life insurers have plans to address a flu pandemic, compared to over half of life insurers elsewhere. Asian companies were particularly likely to have pandemic plans, LOMA reports.

In general, pandemic response plans differ from ordinary disaster recovery and business continuity plans in their emphasis on human resource issues and on work at home, LOMA notes. Many North American life insurers that do not yet have such plans are in the process of preparing them.