Wednesday, April 29, 2009

WHO Says Pandemic Is Imminent -- Prepare Now

As I noted in an earlier post, a severe influenza pandemic can potentially do more than make us sick; it can have such a pervasive effect on our society that everyday commerce and public services are disrupted to some extent. A severe disruption in some services (utilities, medical care, etc.) could further endanger lives. A severe disruption to commerce could stifle economic activity -- just when there is a glimmer of possible recovery from a severe economic downturn.

Today, the WHO has raised its alert from Phase 4 to Phase 5. Phase 5 is only one step removed from the global pandemic phase. On its web site, the WHO defines Phase 5 like this:

Phase 5 is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.

So, the WHO says that a pandemic is imminent, and there is little time to finish implementing whatever actions you need to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. It's time to take pandemic preparations seriously for your family, business, and community. If you, your business, or your community has not planned any mitigation measures, then you are far behind the curve. The time to act is now, but you still need to figure out what to do before you can make preparations.

What to do? The US Government has provided planning guidelines and placed links to them on the home page of There are separate links on that page to planning guidelines for families, businesses, hospitals, and communities. Take a look.

As the WHO said in its Phase 5 announcement, "Influenza pandemics must be taken seriously precisely because of their capacity to spread rapidly to every country in the world." A pandemic is not a sure thing, but when there is a real and rising risk of a catastrophic outcome, we need to take it seriously. We all know what happened to our financial system when catastrophic downside risks were ignored for far too long.