Three problems with state plans for a flu pandemic

The plans are written by public health officials, so they focus on disease detection and control. That’s fine as far as it goes, but the plans fail to cover topics outside of that scope, such as “assuring surge capacity in the healthcare sector, the continuity of essential services, or the integrity of critical supply chains.” So the plans “may require stronger engagement by emergency management officials and others in planning.”

The U.S. government tends to give state governments wide discretion and flexibility in planning for emergencies such as hurricanes, earthquakes or terrorism, because the effects may vary by state. But “a flu pandemic is perhaps unique in that it would be likely to affect all states at nearly the same time, in ways that are fairly predictable. This may argue for a more directive federal role in setting pandemic preparedness requirements.”

“[T]he matter of what the states should do to be prepared for a pandemic is not always clear. For example, uncertainties about the ways in which flu spreads, the lack of national consensus in matters of equity in rationing, and a long tradition of federal deference to states in matters of public health, all complicate efforts to set uniform planning requirements for states.”

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Source: Adapted from “Pandemic Influenza: An Analysis of State Preparedness and Response Plans,” report RL34190, U.S. Congressional Research Service (24 September 2007); posted by OpenCRS

Related: Pandemic disaster planning: IT and security managers give themselves a grade of C-minus, and that’s generous

Intelligence briefs

An eclectic collection of discoveries & developments:

A new biosensor developed at the Georgia Tech Research Institute can detect avian influenza in just minutes. In addition to being a rapid test, the biosensor is economical, field-deployable and sensitive to different viral strains. — Georgia Institute of Technology

Brazilian food companies recently made two cross-border acquisitions: JBS (Latin America’s largest beef processor) bought Swift & Co.; and Perdigão (a leading Brazilian food company) bought Plusfood Groep BV in Europe. “While only two data points, we wonder if this foreshadows additional cross-border acquisitions by Brazilian companies in the increasingly global food industry.” — GE Commercial Finance industry newsletter

Sixty percent of Americans are pessimistic about the state of the environment and want prompt action taken to improve its health, according to a national opinion poll. The survey found that 52% of Americans expect the world’s natural environment to be in worse shape in 10 years than it is now. An additional 8% said the environment is in poor or very poor shape and won’t improve. — Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University / Associated Press

India could challenge the position of China as the manufacturing center of the world in the next three to five years because China is becoming too expensive. Labor costs are surging on China’s eastern coast. — Capgemini / ProLogis

Starbucks has always insisted that the company doesn’t market its caffeinated beverages to children and teenagers. But company officials acknowledge that they’re considering introducing drinks and drink sizes suitable for the under-18 set. — MSNBC (10 September 2007)

CFOs predict: The top business risks through 2009

Top five business risks through 2009:

  1. Competition
  2. Pricing and currency
  3. Economy
  4. Supply chain
  5. Property*

* Fire/explosion, mechanical/electrical breakdown, natural disaster

Note: 62% of financial executives expect risk from competition to increase through 2009, while only 4% expect it to decrease.

Top five emerging business risks through 2009:

  1. Change in competition
  2. Government/regulation
  3. Pricing volatility
  4. Variable client demand
  5. Political threat

Note: Terrorism, and pandemic, ranked very low.

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Base: Survey of 500 financial executives in North America and Europe (including CFOs and treasurers) who work for companies with at least US$500 million or more in annual revenue.

Source: “Managing Business Risk Through 2009 and Beyond,” FM Global, a property and casualty insurer, Johnston, R.I., May 2007

Related: What CFOs worry about

Attention deficit: Americans less concerned about avian flu pandemic

Levels of concern about avian (or bird) flu have diminished in the U.S. over the last 12 months, according to a survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs.

Only about one quarter of respondents (27%) indicate more than a moderate level of concern about avian flu in the U.S. generally, down eight percentage points from last year. Asked more specifically whether they see avian flu as a threat to their personal health or the health of their families, only 15% of respondents report more than a moderate level of concern.

There’s anecdotal evidence that business interest in planning for a pandemic is waning, too. As Gartner Inc. analyst Ken McGee put it (here):

“Most clients would not be prepared if this descended upon the world tomorrow — they just simply would not be ready,” he said. “I think it’s just part of the human condition: You don’t put the stop sign up until after the traffic accident.”

McGee is as concerned as ever about the threat of a pandemic, but he’s worried that fears are waning in the U.S. And, he said, he’s afraid “that people will learn the hard way that they cannot respond to a pandemic situation once it has been declared, because everyone will be trying to do that and nothing will get done.”

More results from the Ipsos poll:

Recall of news coverage about avian flu is also on the decline. The proportion of Americans saying they have read, heard or seen at least some coverage about it is now 56%, down 18 percentage points from 74% a year ago.

A majority of Americans (62%) now feel that government leaders are giving enough attention to the issue. Nearly a third (32%), however, would like to see avian flu given a greater focus.

Ipsos Methodology
The survey was conducted online among 1,438 U.S. adults aged 18 and over interviewed between June 7 and 17, 2007 with Ipsos’ Online Omnibus. Results are demographically balanced to represent the population of adults aged 18 and over in the United States. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.