Monday, April 17, 2006



"What we have faced with Katrina is pale by comparison," said Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, head of the Delaware National Guard, which has been participating in tabletop exercises on avian flu pandemic response. "It underscores our need to be prepared to do whatever is necessary."

The Delaware Online (United States) has crunched some of the numbers on how a bird flu pandemic would smash the US economy and cause havoc to businesses, large and small :

Retail businesses, depending on foot traffic, would suffer extensively as people would be warned away from public spaces during pandemic influenza outbreaks.

Quotes from a Canadian economist's report of March 13 :"Inevitably, an influenza pandemic would disrupt travel, transport and trade, even if no country were to officially shut its borders. Any breakdown in global flows of goods, services, financial capital and people can send shock waves through the entire system."

The Delaware Online quotes federal agencies' estimates that the death toll could range from 89,000 to 207,000 deaths, and that is only for a medium level pandemic.

In a severe pandemic, the death toll could be as high as two million.

In the city of Delaware alone, estimates of up to 400,000 residents falling ill.

World Health Organisation estimates worldwide business losses could reach $800 billion.

With such high numbers of workers falling ill, up to 60 percent of the workforce in Delaware could be absent at any on time during a pandemic outbreak.

But that is not just the sick, there would be those caring for the ill and those terrified of catching it and therefore not wishing to leave their homes.

Critical services like garbage collection, airline travel, banking, would be disrupted, and shopping malls would be virtually empty, of shoppers and workers.

International trade, by air or sea, would break down and financial markets would "come to a standstill."

The Delaware Online story discusses how few in the city seem to be aware of how to plan for a pandemic, and claims most city businesses are woefully unprepared for a pandemic outbreak.

"The worst time to begin planning is when we are in the middle of a crisis," said Paul Silverman, chief of disease prevention at the Delaware Division of Public Health, who has been reaching out to the business community to help them develop plans for a potential pandemic. "Now is the time for businesses, small and large, to be thinking about the potential impact on them and how they would deal with absenteeism and maintain their productivity"

The US Health and Human Services Department claims a pandemic could last from one year up to 18 months, and there would be a series of pandemics,, with each lasting six to eight weeks.

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