(CIDRAP Business Source Osterholm Briefing) – No, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not declared the novel H1N1 (swine) influenza outbreak a pandemic. It should. And it may. But your next steps need not depend on the WHO raising the pandemic alert level to phase 6. In fact, they shouldn’t depend on it.What matters most at this moment is not the number of the phase, but how we respond to the real (and perceived) threat of this genuine influenza pandemic.Going globalThe fact that the virus is causing “sustained community-level outbreaks” in Japan, a country in “another WHO region” means the outbreak has reached the global threshold that qualifies it as a pandemic. That’s according to the very measure the WHO set forth in its latest iteration of alert phases. But, unfortunately, science isn’t guiding the agency’s decision at the moment.I have a feeling that may change very shortly as “influenza scientists” around the world are becoming increasingly vocal in their conclusion; we have an influenza pandemic with the new H1N1 virus. Fortunately it is primarily a mild illness for most of those infected, but we all know that could change with a single virus mutation.The agency is under pressure to incorporate severity level into its decision, to account for the “mild” nature of the current outbreak before calling a full-blown pandemic that could trigger what some worry would be risky and costly actions.But the phases have always been about how well the novel influenza virus passes between people, never how sick it makes them. Mild, moderate, or worse, severity is not part of what defines a pandemic. Maybe it should be. Maybe it can be. But for now, it isn’t. And I’d much prefer that WHO preserve its credibility and stick to science and avert confusion.Whether the WHO raises the alert level to phase 6 shouldn’t have much impact on business, but it might.Much depends on how governments react, particularly the governments of Asia. A misinterpretation of the phases means trouble. Such actions as closing borders, quarantining passengers, and screening people at airports are totally unnecessary, bad for business, and likely to worsen problems. Without taking extreme measures, there’s simply no containing or even dampening the transmission of this virus anymore. Close a border, and people will still find a way in. Same for an influenza virus. Imagine having 11 screen doors on a submarine and closing only 10; you’re still going to sink.Swimming with the sharks?The bottom line is that we have what amounts to a pandemic on our hands, and companies need to adjust accordingly. Our attention must be on its impact on the health of the population. And right now the impact is limited. So here’s what I suggest:1. Be ready for a mixed bag of reactions. If you’re an international company, you’ll likely see great variability in responses from different countries. The novel virus is acting much like a seasonal strain of influenza, and it’s causing what could be considered a “mild” pandemic right now. But how countries and others react may not be proportionate to the severity of the pandemic. Are you ready if borders close in Asia?Also, be mindful that your organization’s pandemic plan may have action steps such as “no travel” or “mandatory work from home” policies that are triggered with a WHO phase 6 declaration. Now is the time to reconsider these actions in light of the mild illness spectrum. They can always be reinstated if the disease picture suddenly worsens.2. Stay tuned. Is this a mild first wave? Will the pandemic fizzle out and be gone for good? Will the virus keep spreading—and mutate into a strain that could become moderate or severe? It’s anyone’s guess at the moment. But investigators are finding new pieces of the puzzle almost daily, and the CIDRAP Business Source team is monitoring the science closely. You’ll be the first to know what we know. You have my word on that.3. Take advantage of the gift of this wake-up call. We certainly don’t want to scare anyone into becoming more prepared, but this “grace period” (to quote WHO Director-General Margaret Chan) is an opportunity to make your case for more attention to preparedness. What we’re seeing right now is akin to a seasonal influenza of moderate severity, which certainly is worthy of note by any business, and that could change on a dime. What would a year of severe seasonal influenza do to your business?Bottom line for businessThe pandemic threat to your business is far from over. Count on us for the intelligence you need to calibrate your company’s response responsibly.
Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersA surreal scene unfolded as the Pelicans introduced the bulk of what was once considered the promising future of the Lakers as the promising future of his own franchise. Armed with a number of savvy veterans such as Jrue Holiday, J.J. Reddick and Derrick Favors, and also boasting the top overall draft pick in Zion Williamson, Griffin laid out the former Lakers stars as an important piece of his vision for the franchise.“You can’t dream big enough in this league,” he said. “I think I wanted everyone’s approach to this as ‘Why not us?’ There’s no reason we can’t achieve what we want to achieve.”Griffin talked about the negotiations around Davis as “sensitive,” but he credited Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka as “fair and direct” in his dealings – a general shift in tone from the trade talks that stonewalled between former executives Dell Demps and Magic Johnson last winter.But it’s also clear that Griffin doesn’t believe the Pelicans surrendered too much. He spoke glowingly of Ball, Ingram and Hart, who joined him on stage, saying he and head coach Alvin Gentry believe the trio could help make the Pelicans “one of the best defensive teams in the league.”“We’re deep with selfless winners,” he said. “We’re deep with selfless high-character guys who wanna play any role they need to.” Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers The trio spoke sparingly of their time in Los Angeles, but Ball was perhaps the most open. He offered that he worked to “block out” the trade rumors that dogged the Lakers through much of the season (mostly while he was hurt).“I think it was tough being a young guy, especially in L.A. with other people looking at you,” Ball said. “We had a big responsibility. … But it comes down to just playing basketball. That’s your job. Everything else is just extra.”Griffin said he received trade offers for all the players from the Lakers, but spoke with them privately, and each player agreed that he could fit into the Pelicans roster. Hart said he told Griffin he didn’t want to be traded because of the growth potential he saw in the roster.“It’s something you want to be a part of and you want to grow with,” he said. “When I had that opportunity, I thought it was amazing. I didn’t want to let it slip.” How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions Related Articles Shortly after executing the first landmark trade of his short tenure in New Orleans, executive vice president David Griffin said he got a call from Josh Hart, one of the players he had just acquired.Hart had a brief but powerful request: Whatever you do, don’t trade me. I want to play for the Pelicans.“It meant a lot to us,” Griffin said. “Having players who were equally committed to us was very meaningful.”The new leader of the New Orleans front office related the anecdote on Tuesday afternoon as a way of coloring what had been a difficult situation in a new shade. It’s true that the Pelicans had to give up Anthony Davis, their franchise star, in the deal to the Lakers that sent them Hart, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram as well as a bevy of draft considerations for the foreseeable future. But even with that counterweight, Griffin sees a lot to like about his new situation. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error