Should Pandemic Planning Include More Than Influenza?

Question: One of our managers was questioning if there is anything relating to other types of pandemic.  Most of the information included in our pandemic plan is relating to influenza.  Are there other types of pandemics defined and broken out into a plan?

Answer:  Our approach in developing the PlanBuilder system is that pandemic planning is a subset of business continuity and disaster recovery planning and, as such, should respond to those pandemics that 1) we are likely to see in Western countries and that 2) can affect our businesses, short-term.  To that end, we looked at the following possibilities:

HIV and AIDS are both current pandemics but neither of these have short-term effects on our businesses. As a result, there is nothing that a business manager need do to address these. It’s possible to construct a scenario whereby a particular business might be affected but that is generally not the case with these two.

There have been other pandemics in past history but these do not affect business interests in our part of the world.  These include Cholera, Typhus, Smallpox, Measles, Tuberculosis, Leprosy, Malaria and Yellow fever.

A disease or condition is not a pandemic merely because it is widespread or kills many people; it must also be infectious. For instance, cancer is responsible for many deaths but is not considered a pandemic because the disease is not infectious or contagious.

A pandemic can be defined as “An epidemic occurring worldwide or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries, and usually affecting a large number of people.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) produced a six-stage classification that describes the process by which a novel influenza virus moves from the first few infections in humans through to a pandemic. This starts with the virus mostly infecting animals, with a few cases where animals infect people, then moves through the stage where the virus begins to spread directly between people, and ends with a pandemic when infections from the new virus have spread worldwide.

We followed the WHO classification when developing our product.

In a virtual press conference in May 2009 on the influenza pandemic Dr Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General ad Interim for Health Security and Environment, WHO said “An easy way to think about pandemic … is to say: a pandemic is a global outbreak. Then you might ask yourself: “What is a global outbreak” ?  Global outbreak means that we see both spread of the agent … and then we see disease activities in addition to the spread of the virus.”

The WHO published a document on pandemic preparedness guidance in 1999, revised in 2005 and in February 2009, defining phases and appropriate actions for each phase in an aide-memoir entitled WHO pandemic phase descriptions and main actions by phase.  All versions of this document refer to influenza.

We followed their lead when developing our approach to keeping you in business and able to service your clients.

Simply put, the problems you face when dealing with a pandemic refer to people being available, to work for you (your employees), to deliver and ship your goods and services, and to purchase your goods and services (clients). Your plans should address all of these.

 

 

 

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2 Responses to Should Pandemic Planning Include More Than Influenza?

  1. Gary says:

    Interesting article on how pandemics can affect businesses, and result in the need of BCM planning. It shows how it isn’t just natural disasters and hacked systems that can result in a major incident for a company

    The Agenci Information Security
    http://www.theagenci.com/

    • We have found that some people do tend to have tunnel vision with BCP/DRP. They believe that these are only IT issues, but, in reality, they are business issues. Similarly with pandemics. They see those as only medical issues and overlook the effects on business.

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