A life insurance industry trade group discounted the threat of the avian influenza virus, saying the industry has “the experience and financial depth to deal with what is unthinkable for most people.”

The comment was a response to a report from LOMA, an international association of life insurance companies, which found that only about one-third of North American life insurers have plans to address a flu pandemic. In contrast, more than half of life insurers elsewhere have pandemic plans, the study found. (See )

Whit Cornman, a spokesman for the American Council of Life insurers, said that, while a human outbreak of the avian flu remains a possibility, life insurance companies “are following developments closely” and develop plans to make sure they can service the needs of policyholders if an outbreak occurred.

“Life insurers have been doing business in the United States for over 200 years,” Cornman noted. “We’ve gone through a Civil War, world wars, depressions, the 1918 epidemic and more. We have the experience and financial depth to deal with what is unthinkable for most people.”