Employers Not Prepared for Avian Flu, Survey Finds

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American businesses are ill-prepared for the potentially devastating effects of a global avian flu pandemic, according to a new survey by Thompson Publishing Group.

American businesses are ill-prepared for the potentially devastating effects of a global avian flu pandemic, according to a new survey by Thompson Publishing Group. The survey found that 76% of the 468 respondents have no contingency plan for an avian flu outbreak, even though 47% said senior management considers the issue important.

“Moderate estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that up to 25% of the workforce could be lost in a pandemic,” says John Ortman, Thompson’s editor in chief. “This should spur companies to protect against an outbreak.” However, of the 63% of the survey respondents who reported having a business continuity plan, only about one-quarter of them have contingencies for a possible avian flu outbreak.

What are employers worried about? Human resources-related issues (72%) and remote work agreements (48%) are the areas of greatest concern in developing a plan. Other concerns include IT/data processing (41%) and coordination with state and local governments (35%). IT issues may be less important, according to Ortman, because IT contingency plans are already in place in most large and medium-sized business and in the public sector.

Of the 225 people known to be infected with the virus as of June 6, 2006, 128 have died, according to the WHO. Although the virus has mostly spread to humans through contact with infected birds, the possibility of the virus mutating and transmitting human-to-human has health authorities concerned. The World Bank believes that the economic consequences of a pandemic will be severe, costing the global community an estimated $800 billion a year. The U.S. cost alone could top $625 billion.

“For employers, this means a contingency plan could be essential to their survival,” Ortman says. “Developing programs to cross-train employees, creating telecommuting policies and revising sick leave allowances are recommended ways for an employer to prepare.”

Thompson Publishing Group, a Washington, D.C.-based information services provider, has been a leading source of analysis and guidance for business and government executives since 1972. Professionals rely on Thompson for help in tracking, and complying with, the dynamic regulatory mandates facing their organizations in a variety of areas including human resources; pensions and benefits; grants seeking and grants management; education, including Title I; FDA; environment and energy; and health care.

This press release was distributed through eMediawire by Human Resources Marketer (HR Marketer: http://www.HRmarketer.com) on behalf of the company listed above.

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John Ortman