Wednesday, September 13, 2006

GS(3) Thunderbolt 9-13-06: Bird Flu Update -- Five Simple Questions, Five Simple Answers

A five-year-old Indonesian boy who died in March had bird flu, a health official said on Wednesday, raising the country's death toll from the virus to 49....The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week recognised three more cases of bird flu in Indonesia, one from June and two dating to 2005....Indonesia has now recorded 64 cases of H5N1 infection. The national death toll is the world's highest. Bird flu remains essentially an animal disease, but scientists fear the virus, which has killed at least 143 people since late 2003, could mutate and pass easily among humans, possibly killing millions. Indonesia has been criticised for not doing enough to combat the disease, which is endemic in birds in most of the country's 33 provinces. The government has so far refused to conduct mass culling of poultry, citing the expense and logistical difficulties in capturing and killing millions of backyard fowl.
Reuters, Indonesia records 49th death from bird flu, 9-13-06

The World Bank (WB) warned on Tuesday of a "sharp decline" in economic activity if the current strain of bird flu mutates into a strain transmittable between humans. "The extent of the decline and the prospects for a rapid recovery would depend on the characteristics of the new virus, as well as on the degree of preparedness in both the public and private sectors," the institution said in its Global Financial Stability Report....A pandemic would pose important risks for the global financial system, it said in elaborating on downside risks to be considered while the global financial markets remain strong. "Some reduction in risk appetite is highly likely" in a pandemic, "leading to a greater demand for liquidity and for low-risk assets."...Operational risks could arise from high absenteeism disrupting critical functions and services of the financial system, including payments, clearing and settlement, and trading. "Preparation in the form of business continuity plans can go a long way to minimize the potential for such costly disruptions," the World Bank said...The IMF is encouraging countries to prepare for a possible pandemic and has been organizing regional seminars that bring together central banks and supervisory authorities, health experts, and business continuity planners.
World Bank warns of economic fallout if bird flu mutates, Deutsche Presse-Agenteur, 9-12-06

GS(3) Thunderbolt 9-13-06: Bird Flu Update -- Five Simple Questions, Five Simple Answers

By Richard Power

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Indonesia has experienced 49 deaths and 64 total cases. Those are the official figures. The actual numbers are probably higher, perhaps significantly.

Recently, on the California coast, a flock of crows showed themselves to me. They did not fly away. They wanted me to see. Several of them were already sick. No matter what is reported in the press or acknowledged by the authorities, I suggest to you that bird flu is probably already here in the USA.

Regina Phelps, the founder of Emergency Management & Safety Solutions,is a world-class crisis management professional who is working with businesses and governments around the world to prepare for the possibility of a bird flu pandemic. She is widely known as a leader in the fields of emergency exercise and emergency operations center (EOC) design.

As part of Words of Power's ongoing coverage of this threat, I asked Regina five simple, but important questions.

Words of Power: How do you answer those, particularly veteran security and risk people, who say we are crying "Wolf!" Here are some comments from one such colleague (one for whom I have the greatest respect): "36000 people will die of conventional flu.40000 will die from alcohol abuse and 200000 from the effects of smoking. To the extent that most of us factor that contingency into our lives at all, we simply accept it; a small percentage of us get flu shots. I am a septuagenarian and have had four flu shots in my life; all made me sick. We speculate about the former but measure the latter. What recommends bird flu to special consideration is its novelty. Let's have a little proportionality here. More people have died in Canada of plain old ordinary flu than have died of bird flu world-wide."

Phelps: It is important to understand a few things about influenza. It is one of our most changeable viruses. It is constantly shuffling its genetic material. We will have another pandemic. The only things we don’t know are when, which virus it will be (it may not be the H5N1, although it is looking pretty good!), and how bad it will be. There have been ten influenza pandemics since the 16th century. It is simply a matter of time. The last century produced three – the 1918 Spanish flu (the great killer), and the 1957 Asian Flu and 1968 Hong Kong flu, both of which were quite mild as far as deaths were concerned but infected about 70% of the population worldwide.

Words of Power: What is your position on Tamiflu? My understanding is that it is not a solution and is at best a possible mitigator for some symptoms. How would you characterize it? What is your recommendation concerning it?

Phelps: Tamiflu is an antiviral. It is a Neuraminidase inhibitator. This means that if started early enough (within 48 hours of exposure) it prevents the virus from penetrating the cells in the lungs. It must be given early enough to be effective. It has been effective in the treatment of the H5N1 flu when given early and has prevented the cytokine storm effect. However, there have been cases of Tamiflu resistance. Tamiflu requires a physician’s prescription and medical exam. It is preventative and is generally not covered by insurance. Most emergency managers and public health care officials believe that it should be reserved for emergency responders and health care workers.

Words of Power: To what extent is the planning, training, etc. that bird flu demands translatable to other pandemics and indeed other types of crisis management situations? It occurs to me that much of the cost and the brainpower expended are going to be well worth in other ways as well.

Phelps: Preparing for a pandemic will build a much more resilient organization and will ensure that you will far more likely recover from any of your more “routine” disasters. Also, increased awareness about hygiene will likely assist in an overall healthier workforce during the seasonal flu.

Words of Power: Can you give us in a paragraph or two what large organizations should expect to spend on bird flu planning, what the human resource commitment to it should be, and what types of contingency resources and capabilities they should be putting in place?

Phelps: As to how much money any organization may spend on pandemic planning the answer is -- it depends. Here are just a few of the things that fall into the “depends” category: Does the organization have an existing and effective business continuity program? If there is no program or it is quite limited, the cost will be much greater. What is the current capacity of staff to work remotely? This includes bandwidth into the company’s systems and home equipment. Other areas for costs include increased cleaning (personnel and supplies), personal protective equipment (masks), education of staff and other key stakeholders and increased communication to all stakeholders.

Words of Power: Can you give us in a paragraph or two what small organizations should expect to spend on bird flu planning, what the human resource commitment to it should be, and what types of contingency resources and capabilities they should be putting in place?

Phelps: It is simply a matter of scale. A small organization will have to perform the same activities, albeit less of them, but will also likely have fewer resources as well. Any company regardless of its size should plan on developing the plan through the use of a task force. This group should be comprised of individuals from the following departments: human resources, business continuity planning, legal, IT, purchasing, risk, facilities, security, safety & health, travel, communications/investor relations and executive management/crisis management.

Additional ideas and resources for planning can be found at

Related Posts:

Hard Rain Journal 8-21-06: Bird Flu Update – Denial is More Dangerous than H5N1 Virus Itself

Hard Rain Journal 7-11-06: Bird Flu Update – Woe in Indonesia, Concern in Africa, & Preparedness in An Australian Resort & Small Town USA

Hard Rain Journal 6-30-06: Bird Flu Update -- Four Important News Items

GS(3) Thunderbolt: Karo Cluster May Indicate Human to Human Transmission of Bird Flu

Words of Power #2: Indonesia’s State of Emergency on Bird Flu Demands Your Attention

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,