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Bird Flu Threat Spurs Companies and States to Prepare For Avian H5N1 Influenza Pandemic

May 19th 2006

Bird Flu Threat Spurs Companies and States to Prepare For Avian H5N1 Influenza Pandemic

Avian Flu Pandemic

Marlton, N.J. - Although the jury is still out on the likelihood and potential severity of an outbreak of bird flu among humans in the United States, some companies and states are playing it safe now in the event the disease migrates to our country sooner than later.

IBM announced on May 15 a new cooperative effort with health authorities to use technology it developed to stem the spread of bird flu and other infectious diseases. As part of the effort, IBM will donate software that enables health experts in different countries to share data, track the geographic spread of diseases, and predict how the bird flu virus might mutate into a form that is deadlier to people, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Participants in the Global Pandemic Initiative include the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and businesses and universities.

 

IBM scientists in New York are also working with Scripps Research Institute to create computer technology that can predict how bird flu might mutate and become more lethal to people. These predictions could help in the development of effective bird-flu vaccines.

While IBM is preparing to track disease trends, the owner of a New Jersey company specializing in protective gear warns that it's important to get ready now in the event of an outbreak. Stephen Guarino, CEO of Global Protection, believes that employers and consumers should prepare their businesses and homes in case the virus switches from posing a terrible hazard to birds to becoming a real threat to humans.

 

"Viruses mutate and, if this one does, it will join the human flu virus, change its genetic code and emerge as a new and deadly flu that can spread through the air from human to human. If the virus does mutate, it does not necessarily mean it will be as deadly to people as it is to birds. But private citizens, the government, businesses, schools and hospitals must prepare for the worst," says Guarino.

Global Protection in Marlton, N.J., sells protective kits, including protective suits, gas masks and other equipment used to guard against chemical, biological and nuclear threats, to industry and consumers at www.birflu123.com.

 

The avian influenza virus currently is confined to birds. It can, however, be transmitted to humans, but only if people come into direct contact with the droppings and excretions of infected birds. If there is an outbreak of bird flu among the U.S. population, some scientists predict a worst-case scenario of 20 million Americans affected, 2 million dead, and schools and businesses shut down to prevent the spread of the disease.

"If H5N1 virus were to gain the capacity to spread easily from person to person, a worldwide outbreak of disease could begin. No one can predict when a pandemic might occur. However, experts from around the world are watching the H5N1 situation in Asia and Europe very closely and are preparing for the possibility that the virus may begin to spread more easily from person to person," says Guarino. 

"Get ready now in the event of an outbreak. Many employees might opt to stay at home and the ones who do go to work will need the appropriate protection to minimize their risk of exposure to the disease." 

Some corporations, he reports, are considering budgets of $50 million to $200 million for gear and equipment to protect their employees.

"Many companies are ensuring that they have large quantities of respirators, disinfectants, rubber gloves and similar products readily available in large quantities and others are preparing work-at-home plans," says Guarino. "Families should have some personal protection equipment on hand too."

Taking responsibility into its own hands, the state of Vermont recommends that communities start preparing for an avian flu pandemic. At a regional summit May 16, officials from the state departments of Health, Agriculture, Emergency Management, and Homeland Security explained the facts about bird flu, how the state is preparing for an outbreak among residents, and what people should do to keep their towns running if people get sick.

Nancy Erickson, communications director at the Department of Health, says the goal of the summit was to raise awareness about the possibility of a pandemic. "We need to not over-assure, not overly alarm, but we need to inspire people to prepare."

Officials in Houston and El Paso, Texas, are also gearing up for a potential bird flu pandemic. At a meeting with 100 officials from public, private and charter schools in the Houston area, Elizabeth Love, chief of the Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services, urged schools to begin work on a plan for dealing with an outbreak.

"School-age children may have the highest illness rate in a pandemic situation, some estimate up to 40 percent," says Love, whose agency will provide schools with materials, checklists, resources and contact numbers to help them develop their plans.

El Paso business leaders learned about the bird flu and how to keep the workplace safe at the Get Informed conference. Attendees were encouraged to devise an emergency plan, including procedures for maintaining business continuity if employees are sick and unable to go to work.

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Steven Infanti
Global Protection offers first responder protective gear that includes protective suits, gas masks and a variety of equipment used for protection against chemical, biological and nuclear threats. U.S. government agencies, police and fire first responders, companies and individuals rely on Global Protection to provide the leading products to protect against potential chemical warfare agents, biological warfare, and terrorist threats such as anthrax, smallpox, and nerve gas.

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                   Last Updated Wednesday, April 11, 2012 02:15 PM