A(H1N1) initial research suggests parallels with 1957 Pandemic


Media criticise health organisations, but threat continues to develop 

As Swine Flu starts to slide down the news agenda, some are already declaring that the worst is over and it was an overreaction. Indeed nearly half of people in the US think the media exaggerated the threat, mirroring the view in the UK.

Is the really the case...is it over?

Well no and Business Continuity planners to need to heed the warnings coming from World Health Organisation and the US CDC as well as the Department of Health.

The A(H1N1) is still continuing its spread and Keiji Fukuda of WHO is stressing that they continue to be worried about what will happen as the southern hemisphere starts to enter Winter. Richard Besser of the CDC speaking on the 10th May warns that Mexico is still seeing significant transmission and there continues to be an upswing in infections in the US. Fukuda continues stating that “there is a good chance that the virus will re-emerge in the autumn and winter months in the northern hemisphere and that it could become more virulent.

Science Magazine is reporting the results of an initial study in the Mexico Swine Flu outbreak led by Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, London confirming that the virus is a virulent as the 1957 pandemic, but not as bad as that seen in 1918. Estimates have calculated the more than 2,000,000 around the world in 1957.

The international teams provisional findings suggests that the case fatality rate for the A(H1N1) ranges between 0.3% and 1.5%, less dangerous than 1918, but still a substantial threat. The study also estimates that infection characteristics could change as the virus evolves and that we need to continue to develop information quickly to more fully understand its development.

Across the world and in little more than a month more than 5000 have been infected and 50 have died in this initial phase of the outbreak, certainly substantial enough to be case for considerable concern amongst informed experts and BCM planners should share this concern. It is far too soon to draw back from Pandemic planning or to be influenced media naysayers.

The Continuity Forum would stress the view from the Department of Health statement on Monday that “all infections in the UK so far had been "mild", but it is right to prepare for the possibility of a global pandemic. The UK's arrangements are continuing to ensure that we are well-placed to deal with this new infection."

This is especially important as Professor Ferguson states clearly that it is difficult to quantify the impact on human health at this stage. This is especially important when the statistics developed so far confirm that A(H1N1) is more infectious than usual; seasonal flu affects 1 in 10 and this novel virus potentially 1 in 3 and that per 1000 infected between 4 and 14 could die.

Against this background it is folly to start dismissing the risk, but we are already seeing signs of this with some BCM planners telling us that they are not getting the support from organisations to ensure the robustness of their plans. Perversely many report a wait and see approach being taken despite the guidance coming from WHO, CDC, HPA and a host of others to act now and ensure plans are in place.

The Continuity Forum is urging organisations to utilise Business Continuity expertise and knowledge to develop and assess plans that will support your business quickly; take the threat seriously and match your response.

Taking responsibility for your organisation and its personnel now and develop a better understanding of what you can do to mitigate the risks. Through active planning you can help reduce the spread of the illness across society and importantly your staff, limiting the financial and personnel impact on the organisation. You'll also be demonstrating prudent and professional management to clients and suppliers.

For more information on or assistance in planning please do get in touch. If you would like to comment on this feature please do contact us directly.

to find out more or attend our Special Summit on Pandemic Planning please follow the link from the front page.