You may have been hearing a lot in the news lately about a bird flu pandemic. You have probably been thinking “what does that have to do with me?’ There is always something to worry about right? Natural disasters, terrorism and now a flu pandemic? The first two–natural disasters and terrorism have a lot in common. They both strike without warning, they leave death and destruction in their wake and they affect a local area. Now in the case of a natural disaster, that area can be fairly large, yet it doesn’t always affect the whole country or the global population. Worse case scenarios usually involved thousands dead and hundreds of millions in damage. A meteor hitting the planet would probably affect everyone on earth. A super volcano blowing up could affect the whole planet. Those are scenarios that scientists play out on their computers to see what might happen. Chances of those happening are much less than tornados, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.
Lets take terrorism. Still, a very real threat and not one to be taken lightly. Lives are lost and millions of dollars of damage can be inflicted. But terrorists strike even more locally than natural disasters. If terrorists strike a major metropolitan area, it will affect that area and only ripple effects around the rest of the country. Deaths are in the immediate area, damage is confined again to the local area. A nuclear weapon going off, while local, would have a much more major impact on a larger number of people across the country. But life could go on in other areas of the country and world.
Now lets look at a pandemic. A bird flu pandemic would affect millions of people around the world, not just local populations. The death rate could be between 5 million and 100 million or more. The economic consequences would be catastrophic. The World Bank has estimated a pandemic lasting a year could cost the world economy $800 billion dollars. It would affect the lives of every American.
When your business in New York depends on deliveries from Texas and those deliveries can’t be made because everyone in Texas is sick, then it will affect your business and your employee’s lives. Now multiply that across all states and across the globe, then you might start to see why a bird flu pandemic could have such a far-reaching impact. Millions of workers out sick, schools, businesses shut down, transportation interrupted. Financial markets in chaos, hospitals over whelmed, lost income and financial defaults. The list could go on. An avian influenza pandemic would be catastrophic, far more than any natural disaster or terrorist event.
At this time the chance of a pandemic is fairly low. Human to human transmission has not been confirmed but scientists fear if the virus mutates into a form that is easily passed from person to person, then the chance of a pandemic will increase. Health experts say it is only a matter of time. While federal, state and local governments are starting to prepare, many have not started and don’t have the funds available to plan for a bird flu pandemic.
Your best defense is to stay informed about bird flu and avian influenza. Unlike a natural disaster or a terrorist event, a influenza pandemic can be prepared for. Well-prepared plans will help you and your family get through a pandemic crisis and recover quicker than those who are not prepared.