Monday, April 27, 2009

Flu Could Bring US to a Standstill

Just when some observers think that they see a glimmer of hope for recovery of the world economy, along comes the swine flu. Now the worry is that a disease of pandemic proportions could bring suppress economic activity even further and throw the world into an even deeper depression.

How bad could things get for the economy, really? The US government prepared a strategy for how to respond to a possible influenza pandemic, and we can turn to the report for an estimate.

The US government's Homeland Security Council published the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza in 2005, and their Implementation Plan seriously considers the disruptive effects that a disease of pandemic proportions could have on health, commerce, and the overall functioning of our society.

How bad does the government think it could get? The Nationsl Strategy warns that the pandemic “will ultimately threaten all critical infrastructure by removing essential personnel from the workplace for weeks or months”.

Critical infrastructure refers not only to the hospitals, clinics, etc. needed to care for the ill, but also to the things that make our society run normally -- transportation, energy, telecommunications, finance, etc. Essential personnel include people who keep the systems running for our water, electricity, medical care, food, and other essentials of life.

A national strategy is fine, but how well will it be implemented if an influenza pandemic actually strikes? An effective response needs to reach down to see that life continues for each and ever one of us.

A lot depends on how well states, local communities, and industry have prepared for the emergency, and on how well they all coordinate. How prepared are your business and your community?