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  • Canada: Prepare for coming pandemic, study warns

    Prepare for coming pandemic, study warns
    Buy insurance and vaccines, study advises
    Eric Beauchesne, Canwest News Service
    Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    OTTAWA -- It pays to be prepared for a pandemic, and could prove costly not to be, according to a study released today that looked at the potential costs and benefits of companies readying themselves for such an outbreak.

    It's not a question of whether one will occur but when, warned the study by Amin Mawani, an economist at the Schulich School of Business at York University.

    "The probability of a pandemic occurring within the next five years is not trivial," states the report, which makes the business case for preparing for such an eventuality, from taking out pandemic insurance, to buying and stockpiling vaccine for employees.

    "The impact of a pandemic on employee absenteeism and its associated effects on lost revenues and incomes are also likely to be very significant," it concludes. "Firms cannot afford to ignore such risks for competitive, as well as legal and fiduciary reasons."

    That's even more the case if their competitors are preparing themselves, the author of the study said.

    "If your competitors are doing it and you're not, their employees will be coming in to work and filling out orders when yours aren't and they will steal your customers," said Mawani.

    "Well-prepared firms will have a unique window of opportunity during a pandemic to potentially increase market share at the expense of firms that have not prepared themselves," the report said.

    While it may not pay for some companies to invest in measures to prepare, such as a firm whose employees do not interact with the public or who telecommute rather than come into the office or plant, Mawani suggested all companies should at least do a cost-benefit analysis.

    "In general, most businesses would find it useful," he said.

    "When I looked at the impact just from SARS, which wasn't anywhere as serious as an influenza pandemic, it boggled my mind how many hotels, airlines, restaurants really lost a lot of money," he said.

    The 2003 SARS outbreak resulted in 15,000 people being quarantined, 375 becoming ill, and 44 dying from the illness, it noted. It also cost the Canadian economy $2 billion, reducing national economic output by three percentage points in the single quarter.

    An influenza pandemic would be significantly more costly, the report said, citing one business "planning guide" that estimated such an outbreak could result in 58,000 deaths in Canada.

    The study didn't look at whether companies are in fact preparing, but it appears that many aren't, Mawani said.

    It may be that they are underestimating the probabilities of a pandemic occurring, or it may be that the lessons of the SARS epidemic have faded, he said.

    "This is like a public service reminder to do your planning," he said, adding that unlike prior to the SARS outbreak, there are business solutions.

    Two statistics from the public-health literature prompted Mawani to conduct the study -- one that the probability of an influenza pandemic occurring is three to 10 per cent a year, the other that such a pandemic can result in employee absenteeism of 30 to 40 per cent.

    "I took it from there that there is a three- to 10-per-cent probability of a 30- to 40-per-cent employee absenteeism and thought 'wow,'"

    The study reviewed the findings of the more widely studied macro-economic impacts, which also point to a large net benefit to an economy as a whole in being prepared.

    That many Canadian companies may not be prepared, or preparing for a pandemic, however, is not surprising in light of another recent report.

    The Canadian Medical Association Journal in a recent editorial warned that if a deadly epidemic were to hit Canada tomorrow, poultry would be better protected than people under federal laws.

    A massive epidemic or pandemic "could kill tens, or hundreds of thousands of Canadians within weeks or months,'' it warned.

    ? The Vancouver Sun 2008

  • #2
    Re: Canada: Prepare for coming pandemic, study warns

    17.06.2008 | 19:00 Uhr
    New Study Demonstrates That Lack of Pandemic Planning Will Affect Bottom Line

    Toronto, Ontario (ots/PRNewswire) - - Latest Evidence for Businesses to Justify Investing in Pandemic Preparedness Plans

    TORONTO, Ontario, June 17 /PRNewswire/ --

    The Schulich School of Business today released the first study to assess the impact of an influenza pandemic on individual companies. Presented today at the World Conference on Disaster Management, the study - Making a case for investing in pandemic preparedness - focuses on how companies can justify investing in pandemic planning using standard business performance metrics. The study highlights that an investment now far outweighs the potential impact that a pandemic could have on individual businesses.

    According to world health experts, it's not a matter of "if", but "when" the next influenza pandemic will strike.(1) (2) (3) The cumulative probability of a pandemic over time is expected to be in the range of three to 10 per cent for 2008, 14 to 41 per cent by 2012 and 26 to 65 per cent by 2017.(4)

    "The probability that an influenza pandemic can adversely affect a company's employees is greater than the probability that a fire could adversely affect a company's property," says Dr. Amin Mawani, the study's author and Associate Professor in the Health Industry Management Program at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. "Firms don't hesitate to buy fire insurance, yet seem reluctant to invest in protecting themselves against an influenza pandemic. The study presents a compelling business case for investing in pandemic preparedness."

    Given our inter-connected world with global supply chains, an influenza pandemic could result in corporations experiencing severe absenteeism of 30 to 40 per cent among employees.(5) Prolonged absenteeism and supply chain disruptions would have a significant adverse impact on a corporation's revenues and profits. Given the probability of a pandemic occurring and the potential adverse impact, the Schulich report demonstrates that corporate pandemic preparedness, which includes preventative measures such as stockpiles of antiviral medicine to protect employees, makes financial sense when looking at common business metrics such as net present value (NPV), internal rate of return (IRR) and payback.

    "The study also suggests that companies cannot afford to miss being prepared for an influenza pandemic, especially when their competitors are getting prepared," adds Mawani. "Competitors who have prepared themselves for a pandemic can have a unique window to steal market share during a pandemic, as well as to make strategic moves that may be harder to reverse later."

    Pandemic-prepared suppliers can enjoy a comparative advantage even if a pandemic never occurs, since customers will feel more secure about the reliability of their supplies.

    Please see contact details below for a full copy of this press release and for further information.

    Arabella Moore, +44(0)20-7611-3629, Lucy Rispin, +44(0)20-7611-3621,

    Making a case for investing in pandemic preparedness was funded through a research grant by Roche Canada. A copy of the full Schulich School of Business study is available at


    (1) Jong-wook, L, Opening Remarks - Meeting on Avian Influenza and Pandemic Human Influenza, Geneva, Switzerland, November 2005.

    (2) The World Health Report 2007 - A safer future: global public health security in the 21st century, (The World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, August 2007), 50.

    (3) The Blue Ribbon Commission on Mega-Catastrophes - A Call to Action, (The Financial Services Roundtable, Washington, D.C., 2007), 13.

    (4) Alison McGeer, 2008, slide presentation made at a conference on pandemic planning in Toronto on April 23.

    (5) Cooper, Sherry, 2006, The Avian Flu Crisis: An Economic Update, BMO Nesbitt Burns, March 13.


    For more information contact: Arabella Moore, +44(0)20-7611-3629, ; Lucy Rispin, +44(0)20-7611-3621, .


    • #3
      Re: Canada: Prepare for coming pandemic, study warns


      High risk of pandemic in next decade, report says
      Updated Sun. Jun. 22 2008 7:35 AM ET

      Amanda Taccone, News Staff

      Experts say the question is when, not if, a pandemic will strike.

      A new report from Dr. Amin Mawani at York University's Schulich School of Business says the probability of a widespread, highly infectious illness is as high as 65 per cent within the next 10 years.

      Despite its rapid spread and 774 deaths worldwide, the 2003 SARS outbreak was not widespread enough to be considered a pandemic.

      However, the effectiveness of the response to the outbreak is being seen as a major lesson in preparedness.

      Lessons from SARS

      Dr. James Young oversaw the SARS crisis as Ontario's Coroner and Commissioner of Public Safety and Security, and he now works as the medical director for Pandemic 101.

      Pandemic 101 is a group of experts whose goal is to prepare families and companies for an infectious disease outbreak.

      Young says that while officials weren't as prepared as they should have been then, "We have a gap now before the next pandemic and we should be using it, and absolutely fighting against the complacency that's tending to creep in right now."

      And, he says, education is going to play a key role in the extent of the impact.

      "The more people understand, and again we saw that in SARS...the fear about SARS was less in Toronto than was outside of Toronto, because people in Toronto paid attention, they listened, and they understood what SARS was and wasn't," he told CTV earlier this week.

      Young is encouraging both families and corporations to ensure they are prepared in the event of a flu pandemic.

      "It's very important because, not only will there be deaths and great emotional upset, but there's tremendous economic consequences potentially."

      Why people should keep working

      Outside of obvious economic damage to sectors like tourism, fear could drive many employees to book off work and stay home. That could have a significant impact on most industries and the economy.

      According to Mawani, lost productivity due the SARS crisis resulted in an adverse economic impact of $2 billion.

      This impact arises from both health care costs and employee absenteeism.

      In the same way as a failure at a single supplier or distributor can idle workers at several plants, a pandemic-related disruption anywhere in the world could have an impact in Canada, and vice versa.

      "The key in a pandemic is to keep people working together, and have people not hide from the virus," Young says, "but rather go to work and contribute, but to do that they have to understand it properly and they have to be prepared for it."

      Introducing strategies like social distancing and effective public health hygiene measures such as hand-washing, can be instrumental in keeping people working safely.

      To that end, companies like Pandemic 101 are already offering systems to help organizations design plans in advance of an emergency.

      "By investing in it, you're certainly going to have less consequences, you have a much better chance of employees showing up, and that's going to be the key," according to Young. "We need everyone working, and hiding from the pandemic will not work, that will make it worse rather than better."

      Experts like Mawani, who encourage investing in pandemic preparedness liken it to insurance for other disasters, saying you "cannot buy fire insurance after the fire."

      Link to interview with Dr. James Young:


      • #4
        Re: Canada: Prepare for coming pandemic, study warns

        > The cumulative probability of a pandemic over time is expected to be
        > 3-10% for 2008, 14-41% by 2012, 26-65% by 2017.(4)
        > (4) Alison McGeer, 2008, slide presentation made at a conference on pandemic planning in
        > Toronto on April 23.


        thanks Alison McGeer for doing what most other experts claimed "can't be done".
        Now make the slide presentation publically available, please.

        And others hopefully will follow the example and give their estimates.

        As long as that doesn't happen, those 3-10% remain the standard ;-)

        clearly she means 3-10% per year, not 3-10% for the rest of 2008.
        26%=1-.97^10 , 65%=1-.9^10

        I'm interested in expert panflu damage estimates
        my current links: ILI-charts:


        • #5
          Re: Canada: Prepare for coming pandemic, study warns

          I personaly don't seeing this disaster occuring until at least 2012 but that is just my opinion. Besides the longer the disease waits the bettter our vaccince capabilities will be, in theory. But when it does finally come all the people who said it would never happen will wish they had prepared, because the ones that did will have a much better chance of surviving it and then those that do survive it could they that survived the possibly worst disaster the world has ever seen.


          • #6
            Re: Canada: Prepare for coming pandemic, study warns

            yes, and our antivirals and antibodies and knowledge.
            This might even stop the pandemic from spreading
            and thus being counted as "pandemic"

            Suppose a new strain emerges with pandemic potential,
            but our defences by vaccine and antivirals is so good, that it
            can't really spread.
            Well, presumably it would spread the next years then
            so this would only be a delay. And a reduction of
            its morbidity and mortality, probably.

            Presumably it would still count as pandemic in the statistics.
            Even a mild H7N7 pink-eye pandemic, no more severe
            than a normal flu-season should count as pandemic,I assume.
            I'm interested in expert panflu damage estimates
            my current links: ILI-charts:


            • #7
              Re: Canada: Prepare for coming pandemic, study warns

              yes our knowledge is expanding every day.
              one other really reasuring thing is that we are possibly the first generation to see a potential pandemic coming as I read in an article yesterday on here, pandemics tend to take humans by suprise. So we at least would know it is coming, pending our survailence holds up.