Monday, April 22, 2013

Pandemic or Panic

Pandemic or Panic

Over three years have transpired since we started hearing about the H1N1 and the devastating effects it could have on our society.  Was it as devastating as we first thought it might be?  The WHO is admitting to not communicating the threat of the H1N1 clearly; identifying the communication issues due to the many unanswerable questions of a new virus.  These unanswerable questions lead to uncertainty, creating a void that lead to fear and confusion around the globe.  Our questions and concerns were not addressed as we would have expected neither from our health agencies nor from our government bodies. 

Scientists noted that the virus was spreading quickly around the globe but as it was a new strain, they could not predict how it would behave, how deadly or virulent it would become.  Predictions are expected to be instantaneous in today’s society.  People want immediate answers – this was not evident in the communications around the H1N1 Virus.

As we all know, there is much room for improvement in the processes, communications and immediate responses expected when an international organization such as The WHO (World Health Organization) announces a pandemic of this magnitude as a “threat to all humanity”. So, how can it be improved? 

That said, if The WHO did not announce the H1N1 as a “threat to all humanity” and the recommendations around international travel to Mexico and other hotspots had not been identified and actions taken to quarantine those who did travel had not taken place, would the virus have been much worse? Would we all have continued to travel to Mexico and other hotspots around the world, taking the risk and spreading the virus had they not been so quick to communicate the unknown skepticism about the H1N1 Virus?

The WHO is conducting research through a Toronto based firm to find out if warnings such as these not only impacted on trade, but if they were effective in preventing the spread of disease.  The study will also assist governments in development of improved quarantine measures and screening measures in airports and boarder crossings.

The H1N1 has but merely vanished in Canada.  There have been very few cases of late – 14 cases since the beginning of 2010 and two deaths.  In total as at April 12, 2010 there were 428 deaths in Canada from the H1N1 Virus; worldwide there were a total of 17,700 deaths.  Will it come back with a vengeance – again unanswered questions that can only be speculated?

There is widespread concern as to whether this virus really existed as a pandemic or a scare tactic to increase revenues for large pharmaceutical companies – creating panic.  With any international crisis comes skepticism.  Although our governments are not perfect, neither are we.  We put our trust and faith in those who surround us, who govern us – if we elected them or not into the seats of power within our countries.  That said, whether it is a pandemic or another international or local catastrophic event, planning and preparing for the worst is not only the responsibility of our governments, but of each one of us on the face of this earth.

It is important that we all take part in ensuring that the processes are improved upon by being prepared ourselves.  Don’t put off preparing your businesses and families for the next Pandemic that scientists predict will happen again in the near future!  In preparing take into account any unforeseen catastrophe – be it a flood, fire, tornado, pandemic or hurricane.  A business continuity plan should address all of these things and more, as should a personal response plan for your families.

Our society tends to be reactive and not proactive.  If another pandemic was to hit and this time more virulent than the H1N1 of 2009/2010, would it not be better to be prepared?  If you were to have a flood or fire in your place of business are you prepared to continue business despite the set backs – do you have a plan in place?  It is up to each one of us as business owners to ensure the success of our own businesses, the safety of our own staff by having policies, procedures and plans in place to address matters of safety and business continuity in the workplace.  It is the responsibility of each of us as parents, as responsible citizens to prepare and address issues in a proactive manner. 

No one knows for sure when the next influenza pandemic will strike. It's always better to have the controls for preparation of an international pandemic at an early stage because whole populations are vulnerable and it is not possible to halt the spread of a pandemic. Slowing to minimize the casualties is worth the efforts and possible panic to save lives.


Lynne Bard, BA (Honours), C.H.R.P., CES
Human Resources, Safety & Risk Management Experts
Taking the Complexity out of Compliance
Beyond Rewards Inc.
Phone: 519-821-7440
Cell: 519-830-7480

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