Pandemic Flu. What you need to know.

Pandemic Flu. What you need to know.

Category : Preparedness

Pandemic flu can affect your business, especially if you are unprepared.

Bird flu can lead to a pandemic flu in humans.
Bird flu

Bird flu is in the news today.

So what does that have to do with Business Resilience I hear you ask. I don’t run a poultry farm!

I’m glad you asked because you might do something to mitigate the risks to your company if you read on.

We have had H1N1 and H5N. This time it’s H5N8. (They must sit up late into the night dreaming up these catchy names).
Bird flu can mutate and affect humans. This can cause a pandemic potentially affecting millions of people world wide. It’s especially risky when we are entering flu season. Guess when our flu season starts?

What would your company do if there was a pandemic and a large proportion of your staff were off sick over a rolling 3 or 4 month period? We are talking about somewhere in the region 20% being off at any one time. The typical scenario is that someone catches flu, takes a couple of weeks off and comes back.  The nature of a pandemic though is that someone else will go off for another 2 weeks and this cycle may continue for about 3 or 4 months. Then, just when you think it’s all over and its safe to relax, the cycle may repeat itself in about 6 months time.

Then there are the childcare issues for sick kids. Some people may have to nurse sick relatives.  A pandemic will kill people, often fit and otherwise healthy people like those in your workforce, their relatives and friends. What about the staff who decide they are not leaving the house until it’s all over?

There are lots of questions to ask and I know because I have been involved at a national level over the years asking and trying to answer the question of how we keep the country running when a quarter of the folk we need are off sick? That includes care workers, ambulance staff, nurses, doctors, teachers, retail staff, delivery drivers, your whole supply chain as well as your staff! The list goes on but we can do something about it with some forethought and planning.

This is what the UK Government has to say about pandemics.

Influenza pandemics are a natural phenomenon that have occurred from time to time for centuries – including 3 times during the 20th century. They present a real and daunting challenge to the economic and social wellbeing of any country, as well as a serious risk to the health of its population.

There are important differences between ‘ordinary’ seasonal flu and pandemic flu. These differences explain why we regard pandemic flu as such a serious threat.

Pandemic influenza is one of the most severe natural challenges likely to affect the UK, but sensible and proportionate preparation and collective action by the government, essential services, businesses, the media, other public, private and voluntary organisations and communities can help to mitigate its effects’.

‘Pandemic influenza emerges as a result of a new flu virus which is markedly different from recently circulating strains. Few – if any – people will have any immunity to this new virus thus allowing it to spread easily and to cause more serious illness. The conditions that allow a new virus to develop and spread continue to exist, and some features of modern society, such as air travel, could accelerate the rate of spread. Experts therefore agree that there is a high probability of a pandemic occurring, although the timing and impact are impossible to predict. The H1N1(2009) pandemic does not lessen the probability of a further pandemic in the near future, and should not be seen as representative of future pandemics’.

If you want to read the rest of what the Government has to say about pandemics (and it is a lot) you could pop over here and have a look. Alternatively, you could give me a call and we could talk about how you might be able to get through it.

Could you cope with losing around 20% of your staff over a rolling period of 3 or 4 months and then again in 6 months? Do you have a plan?

The precautions advised by the Chief Vet may well prevent this strain of bird flu from developing into a pandemic but it will come, one day. Perhaps now would be a good time to think about how you will continue to provide your goods or services when a lot of your staff, some of whom will be key people are absent from the workplace. It’s going to be difficult to plan when you are desperately busy just trying to keep the business afloat.


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