WHO raises threat level

BCM - Flu Support and Advice - Swine Flu - H1N1 - April 28th

In an important step the World Health Organisation has raised the Pandemic Alert status to level 4.

Phase 4 is characterized by verified human-to-human transmission of an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus able to cause “community-level outbreaks.” The ability to cause sustained disease outbreaks in a community marks a significant upwards shift in the risk for a pandemic. Any country that suspects or has verified such an event should urgently consult with WHO so that the situation can be jointly assessed and a decision made by the affected country if implementation of a rapid pandemic containment operation is warranted. Phase 4 indicates a significant increase in risk of a pandemic but does not necessarily mean that a pandemic is a forgone conclusion.

The next step would then be 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.

Phase 6, the pandemic phase, is characterized by community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different WHO region in addition to the criteria defined in Phase 5. Designation of this phase will indicate that a global pandemic is under way.

Many different factors affect the severity of a Pandemic and therefore its likely impact. At the present time leading medical research centres are working to understand just how likely and dangerous infection would be. For the impact to be really understood it is vital that the infection rates and the severity of infection need to be understood.

By raising the the Alert Level WHO are signalling to governments around the world to step up preparations to deal with a pandemic.

It is very important to understand though that raising the threat level does not confirm either the certainty of a Pandemic or its virulence. There are a lot of uncertainties that make the next steps very unclear and scientists are working hard to more fully understand the implications of infection and the its broader impact.

It should be stated that for the vast majority of people any infection with A(H1N1) would result in only mild symptoms, that would pass in just a few days. So far the only confirmed deaths from Swine Flu have occurred in Mexico, and the reasons for this are not yet clear. Whilst the situation is certainly serious it must be borne in mind that the specific risks at this time are small. Mexico City, whilst suffering 150 claimed fatalities, has a population of over 22 million. As the Swine Flu situation develops information and advice will become clearer and alterations in normal process and operations may be required. Preparation now will make this process easier and help in the maintenance of normal service should matters escalate.

Governments around the world will be starting the implementation of their Specific Pandemic Plans including the release of Anti-viral Stockpiles to enable early intervention should people become infected.

Early treatment of Swine Flu with Anti-viral medicines has shown to be very effective to date.

Organisations of all types, not just business should undertake an immediate review of their Pandemic plans. For those with out plans, careful consideration should be made of the possible impact on their operations of staff shortages internally or within the supply chain.

Serious thought needs to be given to those travelling internationally on business and steps taken to ensure your staff can be support should travel disruption occur.

In addition, consideration needs to be given to the possibility for Homeworking; security is an important factor here and it should not be assumed that all roles can work at a distance without a thorough review of the systems security.

The Continuity Forum can help and advise your organisation please mail us here Pandemic Support

Any organisation requiring advice or support should contact us immediately, we are also holding a Continuity Forum Special Pandemic Summit on June 26th for more details follow the front page link or contact us directly.

More information on pandemic research

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