Avian Flu Economics Expert Urges Vigilance In Monitoring Recent Outbreak

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The recent reoccurrence of the avian flu in China, India and the Middle East should serve as a reminder that threats to the global economy can come from a variety of sources, cautions the leader of a task force that studied the avian flu threat and its potentially devastating impact on world financial markets.

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As yet, we see no reason for increased concern about a potential human pandemic impacting business activity or stock market holdings

The recent reoccurrence of the avian flu in China, India and the Middle East should serve as a reminder that threats to the global economy can come from a variety of sources, cautions the leader of a task force that studied the avian flu threat and its potentially devastating impact on world financial markets.

Though the four deaths and 10 cases of the avian flu - commonly known as "bird flu" - appear to be isolated, it is important to monitor the spread of such outbreaks and ensure their impact is factored into one's business and investment planning, says John Thomas, a Greensboro, N.C.-based economic adviser who analyzes wildcard events as part of their risk management planning.

"As yet, we see no reason for increased concern about a potential human pandemic impacting business activity or stock market holdings," says Thomas, vice president of Stearns Financial, a wealth management firm known for its scenario learning expertise. "But it is important to understand that a bird flu epidemic in the U.S. would substantially increase the risk of turning our currently severe recession into a prolonged depression, and businesses and investors need to have a well- thought-out game plan if this were to occur."

Thomas' firm formed an avian flu pandemic task force, which included business & community leaders, emergency first responders and avian flu experts. The group also utilized research from Homeland Security and the Center for Disease Control. Task force leaders determined that the potential loss to the U.S. gross domestic product of even a mild outbreak would be "significant and lasting" due to employee absenteeism and citizens avoiding public places, further eroding consumer spending activity.

The task force monitors patterns of the H5N1 bird flu virus, which typically spreads from birds to humans via direct contact but harbors the potential of mutating into a form that could more easily be transmissible between humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently maintains its Avian Flu warning level at "Level 3," which is a heightened state of alert.

"It appears the bird flu occurrences in China and Egypt remain isolated," Thomas says. "We encourage our clients to prepare for this the way they would for any potential disaster scenario, study preparedness resources from the Centers for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/) and stay tuned to WHO updates. We have also worked with businesses utilizing another excellent resource, the Homeland Security guide for Avian Flu. If the WHO raises the threat indicator from level "3" to level "4" that would be of great concern to us and the signal for businesses and individuals to begin implementing their pandemic preparedness plans. In the meantime, we are continuing to stay focused on executing our bear market investing playbook for our clients and suggest investors and business owners do the same as the center of the economic storm front crosses from Wall St. to Main St."

Stearns Financial has issued its own "Bird Flu Preparedness Guide for Businesses and Investors," which can be viewed by interested parties free of charge at http://www.StearnsFinancial.com/birdflu_update2/2009.

Stearns Financial Services Group is a fee-only wealth management firm and investment advisor. Stearns Financial offers comprehensive financial planning and investment management services to individuals, businesses and foundations. More about the company is available at http://www.StearnsFinancial.com.

Editors, News Directors: John Thomas and Stearns Financial President Dennis Stearns are available for interviews on the subject of Avian Flu and its potential impact on U.S. and world markets. To arrange for an interview, please contact Linda Schumacher or Jordan Bressler via the included contact information with this release.

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