First we heard during the first months that there was really no problem in Belgium and that if you weren't travelling and weren't part of a particular risk group that you shouldn't be worried and that even if you did get an infection that it would all go over without much harm.
Than there was some fever during a few weeks in which one message after another was sent out that this was a real pandemie that could destablize our economy (or what is left of it) and public life. Thousands of people would get killed and the public health services would be overwhelmed, we were at the beginning of an public health crisis that concerned all of us.
Now they are saying that it is a normal cold and that even fewer people would get killed by the flu than in previous other flu- seasons because people are better preprared.
I don't know but the crisis communication is still in crisis because by going back and forth like that you lose in the end all of your credibility with the general public who as a result tend to decide to make up their own minds about what to do and will not listen to this ever changing tango of public messages. So if they decide to panick, they will panick and at that moment you are faced (just as during the Dioxine crisis) with the problem that you will have to re-act to the general tendencies and actions of the public and not vice versa.
The reason they give for this is also incredible. The reason for this total reversal into panick communication is to make the government and institutions aware that they have to prepare themselves urgently to take the necessary measures in case it becomes a general crisis. This is a political responsability and should have been treated as such. Communication can not and will not replace this. It are the actions that count, not the things that you say in the media. Speaking to the media will not replace the necessary actions that you should haven taken already a few months ago. Communication will not hide this inaction. The only thing they can hope is that it just flows over and that there is no crisis because to prepare for a crisis they will have to work very hard now or be ill-prepared.
Many firms and organisation have a 'limit the risk' policy in which people who claim they have a cold or the flu are asked to stay at home for at least 3 days so the period of contamination is over when one returns to work.
So when many people started calling upton the doctors because they thought they had the flu - or a cold that looked alike - the system was very quickly overwhelmed and replaced by a call center.
You have to call and describe the symptoms - as described in detail in all the publications - and than they say you have to stay at home and take some medicine.
You than call to your work and say that you have to stay at home according to the national anti swine flu center and there is rarely a doctor free to come by and control you in the days after.
So there is one explanation why the numbers of people declaring themselves sick in the UK is so high.
While being in London you don't see people with masks, you don't see many signs or warnings. It may be different in enterprises and organisations, but the public life goes on as if nothing happens. So this popular explanation seems even more plausible.
Meanwhile it has also become clear that Tamiflu is not ready yet for population-wide protective or preventive distribution. First one of the new versions of the flu is resistant to tamiflu. Secondly because is seems now after such a wide use that there are so many complications that it would more endanger the health of a great number of otherwise healthy people than it would cure. Before a vaccin or a medicine is ready to be used on such a wide scale it has to go through so many tests that the risks to people are so limited or so well known that you could organise such a distribution.
Another argument for the people who believe that this all is a plot by the industry and or the government to make millions or to force us to take bad stuff. It is one big conspiracy if you believe them.
When a company decides to close down a section where there is some Mexican Flu or to send or keep some workers at home because they have been in contact with people who are actually sick, who pays the bill ? The social security or the enterprise ? Because those persons are not actually sick. They have been send or kept home as a preventive measure because they could get sick and because they could make other people sick. There is no general official Belgian guideline that says that you have to send or keep people at home who were working in an office or section of your enterprise or administration that has some infection. And if the Belgian state would try to formulate such a ruling, how would you define 'sick' and how many people would give you the right to close down a section of an enterprise or a whole enterprise or administration and for how long ?
The Secretary General of the social security administration who is responsable for this kind of questions says in his last interview before taking his pension soon that he hasn't found an answer for this question yet.
This means that if companies or administrations who decide to take such a preventive measure will have to accept that they will have to take up the bill. There is no way the unions will accept that the workers will have to take up their holidays or sickdays because of preventive measures.
Very good communication strategy, don't you think ?
First there is false communication that has been distributed too quickly by all the Belgian media. The first widely circulated news of the first Belgian death of Grippe A said that the victim was totally healthy and had no previous health problems. Now it seems that she always had serious health problems. This changes everything because when we first thought that only people with health problems could die or should be hospitalized or kept at home for a long time, you could more or less count the number of staff that could be absent for a long time (up to two weeks) or couldn't return. When it was first published that the first victim was a healthy young woman without any previous health problems it made us wonder what to do with those calculations. And it put some doubts in the minds of many people that before thought that they were strong enough to resist.
Secondly there is a personalisation of the debate around the Influenza communication and strategy in Belgium. Dr Ranst who is the head of the institution that is responsable for the communication and strategy took it upon himself to communicate directly to the media. When there is now some discussion about the way he has changed course dramatically it is normal that this debate is also about him. He can be the best policymaker and decisionmaker around, but that doesn't make him the best possible communicator for this kind of situation. As he was on the forefront of the communication he is also in the center of the debate and this is not a good thing for the functioning of the administration and for the development of the strategies. We always said he should develop policy and leave the communication to professional crisis communication managers with a clear strategy.
The debate should not be about Dr Ranst or whoever, the debate should be about facts, possibilities and what are the best ways to prepare the public and the infrastructure for the different possible scenarios. The problem with this debate about Dr Ranst is that whatever you say to defend or to attack him, one can respond with quotes that defend the other side of the argument. Dr Ranst has played both sides of the debate during the last months but it is difficult to have it both ways. Or you believe that this is not serious (in the beginning) and you try to calm everything down or you believe that this will be a disaster and you throw alarmist numbers in the public debate without any foundation as he did last month. If we say that he has waited too long with preparing the public for the possibility of a pandemie of absences and some greater number of deaths than he can respond that he did warn the public. If others say that he is blowing this thing out of proportion he can say that he has tried to keep the things calm but that under pressure from different sides he was forced to increase the awareness with foreceful statements of which he would be sure that they would make headlines.
Here we come to the third problem with the communication strategy around Influenza. The debate is becoming ideologic and sometimes paranoid. Some people seem to think that - in absence of real scientific data - the whole crisis has been promoted or instigated by the pharmaceutical industry and that there is no real danger (except for a number of already very sick people). These non-believers may even state that the virus has been created by the government to vaccinate a whole population against their will or to depopulate a country or to eliminate the sick and elderly. These theories are rampant on the internet.
I personally don't think that ideology plays a role here - or that commercial interests have a direct immediate role in the way this virus crisis is being treated. The biggest thing that plays right now is fear for the unkown and for being the one responsable that didn't see a new 'plague' coming. This was also the case for dioxine, SARS and other new viruses. Some of them come and go on the short public attention span for headlines but most continue as local problems with only a limited impact for people outside these zones. This virus is new, international and could develop into something more dangerous. The bigggest fear is to be the one that goes into history as the doctor or politician that downplayed what proved to become a plague (now or after some variations in a few years). It may be that commercial and other interests play into the hand of these fears but it is the fear itself that is the driving force of the ever increasing attention that is given to this virus. That some people are over-reacting because they want to be sure that everything will go according to plan even in the worst situation is natural as a reaction of self-protection. When there are no real scientific data, there is only doubt and fear. It is therefor very important to establish as quickly as possible real scientific facts and numbers about this virus and its variants. A best effort is not good enough.
And yes we should invest more in clean water, AIDS prevention and numerous other social and cultural initiatives to give everyone on this earth a better change to have a healthier life from the moment one is born. But this debate is a different debate from the debate about the investments in the containment of this crisis. You can also say that we shouldn't go to Mars or invest in so many new nuclear weapons if one could use that money to give better healthcare in the poorer countries.
I personally see it as the best opportunity to have a Business continuinity plan in your network, enterprise or administration in a very short timeframe with very limited investments (because everyone will be mobilized). In normal circumstances it would take years and numerous discussions and debates to get a Business Continuity Plan set up. Take this chance NOW. It could years before you have another opportunity like this. And you will be able to use it for many other problems and occasions to come. (Keep it general).
After the first death of a totally healthy person who did not get it elsewhere and which situation worsened so much that she died after a week in hospital. The doctors were not capable of saving here.... The woman was 34 years old. You can imagine that whatever the press is saying people look with disbelief to what is happening. If totally healthy people can get it and still die after a week in hospital, than I can be the next one.
So the panick communication is increasing. The doctor from the federal Belgian Influenza center now speaks about 4000 deaths as normal. The crisis cel in the Walloon region speaks about more than 6000 deaths and he asks the mayors of the Walloon cities to prepare already enough place for those deaths. So the number of expected deaths is only rising the last weeks. From 1700 to 4000 and now 6000 what is next ?
Well it is in french but the communication manager of the Federal Influenza says that they are preparing for the worst and the worst is the Spanish grippe which made millions of victims.
""Il faut se préparer au pire, et le pire, historiquement, c'est la grippe espagnole", a néanmoins souligné Jan Eykmans, porte-parole du commissariat interministériel influenza, expliquant pourquoi les experts envisagent des scénarios catastrophes très hypothétiques. La grippe espagnole a fait des dizaines de millions de victimes à travers le monde dans les années 1918-1919.
The federal minister of health is speaking about drastonic emergency measures which will be announced the beginning of september. How can we prepare for them if we will only know them in september. It will probably mean that the children will go to school the first day and that some schools will be closed the second day.
I don't know how this sounds to you but if you combine this with the fact that the Belgian population has no or little confidence in its administrations or politicians, this is a communication strategy in crisis
1. You give the impression that you don't have a clue
2. You give every week other numbers and explanations
3. You increase the possibilities that you are preparing from 'twice the number of deaths as during a normal flu' to 'much more" to "the worst"
You do not have to communicate everything that you are doing and preparing and that could theoretically be possible. You do not need to worry the population with possibilities that probably won't take place.
And you surely can't communicate 'everything is under control and there is nothing to really worry about' at the same as 'we are preparing for disaster'.
When there is a computer virus outbreak we are also preparing for disaster and setting everything in motion to have a clear view and to do everything we can to limit the damage to our networks. But we don't cut the internet connection if there is no reason for it and we don't give the impression of panick. We just do our job calmly and steadily and do one thing at a time while keeping a close watch. If people have the impression that you know what you are doing and that most of the eventualities are foreseen, they calm down also and become more cooperative.
Personally I don't have the impression they are doing that and I fear that if they are faced with a real crisis they won't be able to cope. So it is important that you prepare your network and institution and enterprise without taking other things in consideration. What (function, process or contact) must go on whatever the environment, who must be isolated when it really becomes dangerous. And only concentrate on those things that really must continue to function whatever the circumstances and don't panick, just think of the different possibilities and look for possible answers for each of them. Than communicate the first one and keep the others to yourself unless the situation is changing so that you will have to put them into action or begin preparing them.
according to the WHO
Although the risk factors for serious pandemic disease are not know definitively, risk factors such as existing cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, diabetes and cancer currently are considered risk factors for serious pandemic (H1N1) 2009 disease. Asthma and other forms of respiratory disease have been consistently reported as underlying conditions associated with an augmented risk of severe pandemic disease in several countries.
A recent report suggests obesity may be another risk factor for severe disease. Similarly, there is accumulating evidence suggesting pregnant women are at higher risk for more severe disease. A few preliminary reports also suggest increased risk of severe disease may be elevated in some minority populations, but the potential contributions of cultural, economic and social risk factors are not clear.
whatever they are saying or not saying here, if you are belonging to one of these risks or have serious health problems already you are at severe risk and should not wait when you get a cold or something like it.
I like numbers. Clear numbers with clear definitions and indications clearly seperated. Based on numbers you can start planning and have an idea about what could happen and make sure it won't happen. Numbers have nothing to do with politics nor with policies, they should only be a reflection of the real situation so they can be used to make policy decisions or to calculate the impact of certain decisions.
Since the beginning of the flu A crisis people have been playing around with numbers or have been just ignoring them (because they couldn't be trusted). So any estimation or any indication is for the moment just guesswork of its worst sort.
What is important is to have some clear numbers of which the definitions should not change during the next few years (as new variants can be popping up)
* the number of people who have died because of the effects of the virus (it can be that they were already very weak or sick)
It is here important that you also have estimations about the number of people that have the same combination of health problems that could lead to death if they were infected or the infection was not treated in time.
* the number of people that were hospitalized and the number of days they were
It is important here that you also have estimations about the number of disposable hospital beds and eventually emergency locations. You should also have an indication about the number of healthy vaccinated personnel that you would need to care for those critical cases.
* the number of people who were officially sick because of the virus or its effects (also socially as some people will have to stay at home to care for others)
It is important to follow the number of people that are at home and who work for emergency services or have critical functions (this can be from aircontroller to critical people in a nuclear or electricity facility). Because as long as there is no problem, than there is no problem if only few or none are present during some time. But if something happens than we can experience for example a blackout.
* the number of people who were given priority vaccination against the virus
It is important to include people who work in the energy and distribution sector (the ports for example or the train conductors). This makes the group greater but the advantage is that when the crisis becomes bigger, you will have the necessary people to keep the trains running, the airports open and the essential administrations and networks (telephone, ISP) functioning.
Limiting the vaccinations to only medical staff is not really a wise decision.
These numbers should be easy to get, coordinate and dissimate. They should be broken up in as many demographic and geographical indicators as possible. They are important to follow the distribution of the virus and to plan for new variants or even other viruses.
Decision makers should also stop playing with numbers or throw them around as if they are of no importance as has been the case in Belgium the last couple of weeks. There are no clear numbers and nobody has any idea about the real impact and distribution of the virus and maybe it is not even so important. THe most important thing is to prepare yourself for the worst, so you could survive this crisis (and have at the same time a business continuity plan more or less written that would otherwise take months and thousands of dollars to write).
In the US there is now a big discussion about the way the US administration is counting (or not) the number of infected people
"A very careful evaluation of the raw number regarding this virus shows that in the numbers report on May 15, 2009, the reported numbers began deviating from what you would expect to see form a viral propagation, and instead the numbers begin released to the public began to "flatter out" and not reflect the spread of a respiratory illness which would normally sweep through the population like wildfire. Instead the CDC has a strong growth of the virus up to this date, and then after the date ... well, it just seemed to slow down in the publicly reported numbers for no apparent reason. Then the CDC started publishing press releases that the virus was slowing down, BUT the WHO numbers showed the virus rapidly spreading elsewhere, but though some feat of magic (or fuzzed up CDC statistics) the rate of infection in the United States appeared to have started decelerating."
Better no number than false numbers because it will come out and you will have lost the most important thing you should keep in any crisis - your credibility as a source of correct information.
Some of this can surprise some people around the world
* the advice from a big organisation of small enterpreneurs to its members : do NOT shake hands with someone
* exclusive : doctors and nurses are going to be vaccinated against this flu in OCTOBER. In the media they only speak about NOVEMBER for the general population
* I have been reading the letter that has been sent to the doctors around the country by the advisors. It just contains some very stupid things
- it limits the groups of people with a high risk too stictly. We have seen from some other countries that even people that are not sick at all can die within 48 hours and that for the moment we don't have a clue.
- doctors don't have to take samples anymore. The question here is how doctors and the specialists are going to track the distribution of the virus and how they are going to see if there are new variants making their way into the country. Variants that may be much more dangerous or lead to more complications.
In cases like this - when specialists have been too late in organizing and the professional organisations are giving stupid or contradictionary advice you should take the handbooks and follow them. Just prepare yourself for a very bad situation and put it down in writing for every member of your organisation (what to do if this and this and she are sick at the same time etc....)
Well this what our head of the Influenza agency is saying.
He said that one third of the population would be infected (3 million) and that 0.05 percentage would die. Which makes about 1500 people.
Meanwhile the army is distributing 900.000 masks (for 3 million infected people, will we re-use them ?) and 90.000 doses of Tamuflu (is this the total number of vulnerable people ?) around the country.
It are the communes that are responsable for the crisisplanning on their territory. I presume that a city like Antwerp will know what to do because it already has Seveso installations on its territory, but what about the small communes or where there were untill now no real reasons to have such a pandemie planning ?
This is not a pandemie, this is paniekemie.....
Maybe they have understood that the consequences of this virus is nothing like we have seen before in our lifetime.
Or after the lost months of communcating that there is no problem, they are really gong so much in overdrive that it seems as if the huns are at our borders and that they will take our country by storm in the next few days.
A. Do you have a VPN at your network ?
Yes. Start to make it work for most of the people. Already insert their rights, upgrade your license, inform them how it works.
No. Buy one now and do all the things described here above.
Control your security (firewall, IDS, antivirus) and be sure that all the information that is needed is on the servers and accessable for anyone that needs to work with them (rights on the folder or document). If you have windows 2003 server or higher activate sharepoint.
B. Do you have telework arrangements ?
Yes. Globalize them and make them less specific and strigent. People will call in to say they are feeling a bit sick and are awaiting the doctor and maybe the results of the test a few days later. If these tests are positive all the persons who were in contact with that person will have to be sent home.
No. Do not start writing detailed rules. Just use those three.
1. When feeling sick, stay or go home and await the test. If capable work from home. Come only back if the test if negative or the cure is finished.
2. When sent home, stay home untill further notice or when you receive a negative test. If capable work from home.
3. When you have to stay home because members of the family are infected or the public transport is unrealiable or just stopped, work from home if capable.
You will have to organise for about 10 days of isolation of each sick person. It would be good to have some material in reserve (faxes, laptops and mobiles, printers and scanners).
If you have paid your workers their ADSL connection at home you are in a very good situation, if you haven't you can only hope they have one or are willing to use it.
Be flexible as long as someone seems to be doing everything to do his work if this is from home or on his job.
C. Re-roganize yourself
Diminish the number of meetings and isolate important personnel from all others inside your infrastructure. The lesser contact they have with others while the epidemic is in full swing the better. (use the phone, the webcam, the mail, the net, the fax) They should even be housed in expensive hotels so that they don't have to go home.
Invest in hygiene on the office and learn people to wash their hands several times a day. Distribute real protection mouthware (the clinical stuff not the others) if infections are spreading in your region or among your staff.
Re-organise so that essential services can always continue or be outsourced.
Do not underestime the impact if this is really in full swing.
And if nothing happens. There are three reasons you should be happy you have done this
* you have heightened productivity by diminishing the out of office or in a meeting situations
* you have externalised your office
* you have indexed the critical information and functions and workflows in your environment and put processes in place to keep them functioning.
This is the situation
The vaccin itself will be free for some categories of people (older, children,....)
The normal flu test is free in many institutions and enterprises. But for the others it is being paid back for the greatest part.
The swine flu test is expensive and according to medical sources NOT being paid back for the most part.
So how do you want people (one third of our population) to take such tests ? Especially if you say in public as the big chief doctor that for the most of the infected people they will only be a bit more sick ? And by doing so how do you want to monitor the development of the epidemic across the population and country and be able to take specific actions ?
Call in the army. Get them back from around the world to set up vaccination centers around the country. Millions of people need to be vaccinated before 3 million infected people start to walk around. Get the UN in here. THis is disaster country. :):)
seriously. This is a sick joke.
So we had the fabuluous remarks by our scientist-superdoctor-crisismananger Van Riest who after months of losing time in press meetings (wasn't I good ?) decided it was time for a wake-up call in case we would have in september not hundreds but thousands of people infected and it would become clear that the preparation process is just virtual in comparaison with the number of 3 million infected people in Belgium.
I don't believe this number. This number is based on nothing and it is a scandal that someone launches numbers like that without having any scientific basis to refer to. It is panick mongering and even worse because the person itself was responsable for the non-communication before and the non-preparation situation we find ourselves in.
So with the full holiday season in swing, what will happen ?
* will all essential personnel in the army, police, doctors and adminstration see their holidays being suspended untill further notice ?
* will no politician or important person leave the country to lower the risk that important or necessary persons become infected ?
* will everybody rush to the pharmacies to buy whatever there is against the flu just to be sure to have anything. Will people begin stockpiling food and water because with 3 MILLION People infected the whole distribution process will break down.
* will people rush to the bank to get their money because in september with 3 million people infected around here most of the banks will be closed and everything will have to be done online
* will all holidays and conferences (European capital) be suspended because Belgium would be the most infected swine flu country of the world. And I propose to change the name from Mexican flu to Belgian flu in that case.
Come on, this is totally ridiculuous. I propose to hire professional crisiscommunication manager to take over the role of the communiction process and handling and to let the doctor do what he does best, medical analysis for policy makers.
You will find more documents in the links about the flu at your right and in http://ebooks.skynetblogs.be. The US documents and WHO documents are rather impressive if you compare it with ours....
Lots to worry about .
THe schools got no instructions yet. THe kindergartens got no instructions yet. The doctors just got some but it are the communes that will have to organise it (they didn't have any real training for such a thing of such an impact over such a long period of time). The administrations didn't get a letter with instructions so that they will have to act. The hospitals have plans some laugh about.... especially with one in three infected around here.and so and so on.
If you were reading this blog, you were warned months ago that this would spill out of control. But we never said one in three.... There is NO basis for this.
Just to add. A scientific US article said that for their country they arrive at 1 million infections. So how could our country have 3 million infections (on 10 million habitants) ? How could our country have a much higher infection rate than Mexico or any other country ?
Close the frontiers. Close that airports. Stop the trains. get out your guns :):):)
In Crisis communication you have the obligation to tell the situation as it is and prepare for the worst. You also get as many people involved as possible to prepare for the worst, whatever that may be. It is important when the worst comes around that everybody knows what is to be done and why and how. This is what other countries have been preparing for since years and have detailed in whole books with procedures and guidelines - which are adapted now to the new variant of the flu. This is why it is important to have a general organisational and procedural framework that you only have to adapt.
For months Mr Van Ranst the big chief of the Influenza agency has been telling us day after day on the press that it wasn't that bad, that you could only get a bit sick, that they are prepared and monitoring everything.
This is not true. It took some research and some phone calls to get the agency to publish the business continuity guidelines that were prepared. And which are too general to be much of help. They should have been a kind of book in which you only have to change the name of the firm or the internal reglementations and names. If a firm would like to do it otherwise, they could chose to do so, but for most a book like this would solve the problem. There is no such framework. There is no infrastructure and there are no real plans (tell people working in hospitals me). Or the first line is not involved and NOT TRAINED. By the way we have for the whole of Belgium 25 places in hospitals that can be isolated. We are a country with nearly 10 million citizens by the way in the center of Europe.
Now he comes on the news telling us that in september - without any vaccin being ready by than - about 3 million belgians will become infected and that the period after the holidays (that is in about two weeks when the first vacationers are coming home) the number of cases will expand enormously. He will have to close schools he says. He forgets he will have to close also administrations, public swimming and other recreations places, distribute millions of protective gear, close down maybe public transport and so on...... that is a worst case scenario ..... but is saying that up to 3 million belgians can become infected is that not a worst case scenario ?
I even have no idea where the number comes from. Has he used the mathematical models that were used in the US to calculate this number ? Where does it come from and if it comes from nowhere than is it not irresponsable to throw a number like that in the public - even worse if you are not prepared by the reactions of the public and people responsable for the business continuity of their institutions and enterprises.
So I think the number is just b.......... and I think the same of this communication as I do think that preparing for a crsis is not based on communication outbursts like this but on enormous piles of paperwork done by an enormous group of people who for each infrastructure that will be impaced are writing down the procedures and preparing the practical infrastructure and things to get the things going as normal as possible and as calm as possible when we are really hit big time.
And if we are not hit big time. We were prepared and so we will be prepared if something else hits us big time that we didn't know was coming (like a missile from North Korea :)) Joking.
You can find more books and procedures at http://ebooks.skynetblogs.be and by clicking the links at your right you will find the Belgian documents. It is time to prepare yourself but that we have told you so since weeks.
It is just a pitty that journalists only write down what is being said like secretaries and don't investigate themselves..... that is what they are supposed to do.
Swine flu has infected as many as 1 million Americans, U.S. health officials said Thursday, adding that 6 percent or more of some urban populations are infected. The estimate voiced by a government flu scientist Thursday was no surprise to the experts who have been closely watching the virus.
"We knew diagnosed cases were just the tip of the iceberg," said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt Universityexpert who was in Atlanta for the meeting of a vaccine advisory panel.
Lyn Finelli, a flu surveillance official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, made the 1 million estimate in a presentation to the vaccine panel. The number is from mathematical modeling, based on surveys by health officials.
Did you already prepare your swine flu prevention and business continuity ? Many people are going to and returning from the US during the holidays. From around the world and from than it goes really fast. It doesn't kill everybody but sure can destabilize your operations.
Do not forget also to reserve your normal flu vaccins. I am sure that the demand will be much higher than last year (even stock prices think so) and I am sure that in firms and institutions or organisations where the workers don't get it for free the unions will demand this this year. Be sure to have enough stock and prescriptions when it comes out and do not wait too long to go to the doctor to get it. It diminishes the possibility of sickness or death in the worst case.
What is totally missing in this country is that nobody is understanding that when they declare level 6 (and that is the highest level possible) - it means that all governments and institutions should at least get their Influenza plans in order or start getting them in order. Most of the things you will have to do to prepare for such an outbreak- and even a small outbreak can distribute itself quite fast or have enormous consequences - you can also use for other problems or outbreaks. Doing this work is thus not a waste of time.
So I was quite happy to hear that at my schoolgroup the person responsable for disasters and risks and security had yesterday organized a kick-off meeting with the different persons who would be responsable, just to inform them about all the preliminary work that will be done in the coming weeks. It means he will be good prepared if later this years school will need to be closed or other specific questions will be asked.
This is the function of declaring level 6. It will one day or another arrive in your country, city or neighborhod and you better start prepareing for it so that you won't be surprised.
HOliday season is starting, so people will travel so the risk is increasing ever more.
If you book a holiday, be sure that you have annulation insurance. There is no way someone can't guarantee that your destination, airport, airline or hotel won't be closed in a month or two months or three months time. If you can know this, you should invest on the stock market.
http://ebooks.skynetblogs.be has published some booklets
You can find already (by using the tag flu in the column right from here) all the documents and information that you may need. In ebooks blog you will find more documents.
You should start contigency planning and getting at least a committee together that can make the necessary decisions. Some of these should already be taken now. And some investments should be already made.
You should have vpn homework installations because what will you do when people have to stay at home because they are quarantined or the schools are closed down.
You should have a normal flu vacine program that is free (why not obligatory for your key personnel ?).
You should have a documentation and backup policy so that when you can't reach that person (because he or she is quarantined) somebody else can take over without much interruption.
What will you do with your public spaces, meeting rooms (teleconferencing ?) or offices in which you meet clients and how will you protect your people who are meeting outsiders or clients ?
Do not underestimate the work or the investment and don't buy cheap crap.
You have still a few weeks of time to get your act together. But the crisis in the UK is much bigger than the government is telling according to some sources and once the virus is in the country or community it really spreads like wildfire.
And we have only 25 isolated rooms in our clinics in Belgium. So don't count on that. And a vaccin is 6 months away. That is after the normal flu has passed and hopefully didn't mix with the swine flu.
You should pay extra attention to the members of your workforce who have asthma or other illnesses or have been hospitalised and are still recovering. Or who are older. They are more vulnerable and could more easily die from that.
Investors will start looking at insurance companies and their policies, airlines, travel agencies, hotels ......
The possibility that the virus will spread even faster now is because the holiday season is coming and millions of people will travel and contact millions of others. For a health specialist this is a nightmare. For the risk calculator declaring a pandemic has enormous economic consequences even if it didn't lead up to global panick and standstill. The politician will be confused. And we, we will just try to protect ourselves and will be looking for news and information.
Our biggest issue with influenza.be is that it only publishes information about the situation in Belgium (14 confirmed cases for 25 places) and that it doesn't seem to give a global picture that you have to try to stick together yourself. It is as if the evolution of the virus in the rest of the world doesn't have any impact on us......
luckily we don't believe that.....
so as the danger is getting bigger at a much faster rate it is time to follow this thing more closely. We will be upgrading the newsflow about this virus in the coming days.
Meanwhile, prepare yourself. Take the official documents (for the belgian we published them here) and go through them and start getting your act together. It is better to be prepared than in panick.
We are not alone on this earth and we have connections and travels and contacts with the whole world. So when in some regions of the world the new flu is spreading faster and becoming a problem, we will have to take measures if we have contacts with that country.
Also one should keep in mind that those regions are now in autumn while we in Europe are heading to summer (but as in Northern Europe it is rather cold and raining a bit many people have colds nowadays). This also means that in those countries the normal flu should start to arise (on the basis of which the general vaccin is being made for the rest of the world). The greatest fear of all specialists is that the normal flu will mix with or change the swine flu virus and that the swine flu virus could become more lethal than normal. Normally several thousand people around the world die from the flu each year but if the swine flu would mix itself with the normal flu than could become not only many more deaths but also many more people who will have to go to hospital and be isolated there. Because as the swine flu is especially mortal for people who are already sick, the distribution of the swine flu in a hospital could be dramatic. If you take also into consideration that hospitals are sometimes understaffed and that nurses and doctors could also become sick, than you get a wholly different picture than the media is (not) giving you.
It could be that you won't see anything in your house, school or neighborhood. But at the same time a number of hospitals could be closed or quarantained and that would only be problematic if you are ill and there is no hospital (or place or doctor) to go to.
Hong Kong has to close many schools because the flu is spreading fast.
Chile is after Mexico the second Latin American country that seems to be hard hit by the virus. It is not ready yet to take drastic measures but in the worst case this could only be a matter of time.
Australia has a big increase in the number of cases and can call it an epidemic if that continues.
US military in Germany have also some cases, probably as the virus is spreading throughout the US.
In all countries and in the US it is clear that hospitalisation and eventually death for a minor number between them is generally the result of the combination of the flu with other health problems or old age. This means that the flu is mostly dangerous for places and centers where may old age and sick people live and that especially those people should be warned to take every safety precaution necessary as long as the distrubution of the virus is continuing.
more news sources
Everybody expected war in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and everybody was focusing on these wars and how to contain them.
Meanwhile the situation in Korea is going out of hand at an incredible fast scale. Never have there been so many warpreparing acts and provocations in so few hours. The preparation for the Iraqi war took months and could be halted any minute during all this time - in theory.
Have the impression that something is going incredible wrong there and that there should be more attention for this situation. An American General declared that the US could go to war and North Korea has suspended the truce. Yesterday they were testing rockets again. If that ain't the most dangerous situation on earth for the moment, than I don't know what is.
For firms with links to China this can become very difficult times as nobody is sure what could happen when the first incidents at the North Korean Border (the most militarized of the world) will happen. I suppose DRP teams are getting their plans out of the box and are doing the necessary paperwork and taking the necessary decisions so everything is in place if.....
The advantage of this is that even if nothing happens on the warfront, you are prepared when the swineflu eventually hits some regions of China big time. (You don't need a great number of infections to have huge economic effects as Mexico has shown).
For the financial risk assessment manager. China is the economic production pool of the world. If it becomes involved in military actions or will have sanctions itself imposed on them because it helps North Korea to survive economic sanctions, the economic effects could be huge.
The more I look at it, the more I think, What a mess. I hope somebody in North Korea gets back his cool before the train of war has left the station and there is nothing to stop it.
Frank De Winne may in that case view the first local nuclear war on earth from the safe space station :) But that is cynical me, just joking.
They decided to close a whole school in Tervuren untill next week (The International School) because a father and his kid who came back from the US seem to be infected. As there are only 25 places in the Brussels Hospital for isolated treatment of this disease, they were all asked to stay home and not have any visits and take their medicins. Probably it will all stay under control, but you can see how fast it can go. You only need one worker back from the US or another country with some infections to have to close down your school or infrastructure for a week. (Any DRP, any housework possibilities ?).
Normally there should be a vaccin for the present virus available in august or september, but after that it will have to be produced and distributed in time. And we should hope that meanwhile it doesn't mutate and transform itself by mixing it with the new viral flu virus or the bird flu or any other kind of flu or virus that we thought to be harmless untill now.
We have published already the documents and checklists about preparing your institution or enterprise for Belgium and some other US reports are available at our ebooks blog.
Don't look on influenza.be, there is no news yet about the new cases which is a pitty because this way you leave the communication solely to the media and you can only hope that everybody believes them and that the journalist stays calm and is intelligent enough to report the facts and nothing but the facts.
With 285 kids and their families with a case that only has been discovered yesterday but in which the persons were back in Belgium since sunday you can multiply the number of people that may have been in contact or think they may have been and may now have questions or want to have a medical control or just some medicins just to be sure. There is nothing re-assuring about the website as it is today in such a case. They clairly didn't foresee that in their crisiscommunication if you call it crisiscommunication because this is the first possible small crisis and there is no official communication.
1. If you are on the stockmarket, these are the major vaccin developers of the world
GlaxoSmithKline and Baxter International,
2. There is a lot of discussion about the alertlevels that are being used by the WHO and are being retransmitted by the press without the necessary explanation (or somewhere deep down in the article or next to it). The alertlevels of the WHO have nothing to do with the number of deaths or possible number of deaths but only with the geographical spreading of the virus for which there is no vaccin or cure at the time and from which some people may die. Even if the WHO goes to the highest level 6 this doesn't mean that there are thousands of people who are dying (like many others each day from normal diseases because they have no access to any medicine or clean water for starters) but that the virus has spread to a higher number of countries on different continents and is still spreading in these countries. The number of deaths has absolutely nothing to do with this.
The problem is that some policypeople and riskmanagers don't understand the dangers of this slowly creeping virus that is still mutating and COULD mutate into something even more dangerous. So they take actions that have huge economic costs (like killing all pigs in Egypt) but aren't necessary effective or they don't take any action or do any preparation at all because not so many people seem to be dying of it. On the conference of the WHO this issue has been debated and the WHO will try to keep this in mind and see how it can ameliorate this system.
Computersecurity people know this situation all too well. The Internet Storm Center has a few times raised the insecurity level to yellow the past years but it only kept it to yellow for a few days. The reason is that the first effect of this warning level should be to get the attention so that everybody adjust its behavior and that the responsable networkmanagers take the appropriate actions. As the press doesn't care much about computersecurity (beside the spectacular quote or stupid incident) it doesn't appear in big headlines on the frontpage.
The situation with the swine flu alerts can be as bad as with the permanent high level terrorism alerts in the US. Who cares if it is yellow, orange or red because it has never been green and will never be green and always there will be some possible attack somewhere against an US airplane or infrastructure because that is the world you live in. So the people who have to assure the security just continue to do their jobs because they can't make any mistake anytime anywhere. Every mistake can be fatal. Independent if the alertlevel is high or low.
Alertlevels should be regionalised and specialised as they should be with computersecurity, (which isn't the case) because only regional special alertlevels are usable. A person responsable for health care policy should have another alertlevel system for the flu than the general population. A person in Japan should have another alertlevel system for the flu than someone in Belgium (for the moment)
3. For Belgians we have published the links to the operational documents you will have to use if you want to start to set up your pandemic policy. It is simple but it will take a few meetings and paperwork so if you do it now or during the holiday season instead of september-oktober or december you will have more time and prepare yourself better for every possibility. Once the documents and procedures are in place you place them between all the others (or test them once) and you just wait for the moment that you could need them. This could be anytime as people will start travelling around the world.
Belgium has 25 beds for swine flu cases in a specialised department of a hospital in Brussels. If there are more than 25 people to be treated for swine flu at the same time there is a problem. Than they better stay at home and close the door :)
you can find all flu information, links and documents by clicking on the tag flu