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Influenza A(H1N1) Virus Update 5/1/2009


In response to recent Influenza A(H1N1) virus news, RIMS would like to once again offer our members information and advice to support yourself and your business operations. Below we have listed useful information along with links to sources and other interesting articles.
  • The United States Government has reported 91 laboratory confirmed human cases, with one death.
  • The following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths - Austria (1), Canada (13), Germany (4), Israel (2), New Zealand (4), Spain (13), the United Kingdom (8), Switzerland (1) and the Netherlands (1).
  • The state with the highest number of confirmed cases is New York with 50. California has reported 14 confirmed cases, Texas has reported 26 and South Carolina has reported 10. Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kansas, Arizona and Nevada are all reporting under 5 confirmed cases. This morning, state officials confirmed five in New Jersey and four in Delaware. 
  • Total confirmed cases worldwide is 331, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Tips for Risk Managers

  • A review of your firm's insurance program is needed at this point. Workers compensation as well as employee life and health are all on the front line when it comes to dealing with pandemics such as the Influenza A(H1N1) virus. 'In terms of workers comp, you'd have to demonstrate in satisfactory fashion that contracting the disease arose out of or in the course of employment,' said Dr. Steven Weisbart, senior vice president and chief economist of the Insurance Information Institute. 'I would think that that would be somewhat hard to prove unless maybe a cluster of employees at a given employer came down with it and then you could argue that they gave it to each other at the workplace. So I think it would be kind of a case by case thing.' 
  • Though the Centers for Disease Control has not implemented restrictions on travel as of yet, it may be wise to devise alternative methods for business operations if your position requires travel to highly infected areas such as Mexico City, New York, Texas or California.
  • Businesses should also prepare for the possibility of widespread employee absenteeism and possible disruptions to third-party deliveries of goods and services. For more information on business continuity, visit the RIMS website.

Influenza A(H1N1) virus Facts and Fiction

  • There is no risk of infection from consumption of well-cooked pork and pork products. As with other types of influenza, Influenza A(H1N1) virus is thought to spread by sneezing and coughing, or by coming into contact with infected bodily fluids and touching them to one's own eyes or mouth. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cooking pork above 160 degrees will kill the Influenza A(H1N1) virus, rendering the meat safe for consumption.
  • The current Influenza A(H1N1) virus is not a pandemic. The WHO has classified this situation as near pandemic status, meaning widespread human-to-human transmission in at least two countries has been confirmed. It is uncertain that the current Influenza A(H1N1) virus will become a true pandemic, as the WHO announced on Thursday, 4/30, that it had no immediate plans to raise the outbreak's pandemic status any further.
  • Pandemics are not necessarily fatal. A pandemic indicates breadth of infection, rather than the severity of its effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control, many thousands of people may already have had Influenza A(H1N1) virus and recovered, or may have Influenza A(H1N1) virus yet exhibit relatively mild characteristics.
  • As a perspective, the average flu kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands of people worldwide each year. Although numbers of infected patients could still rise dramatically, the current Influenza A(H1N1) virus epidemic pales in comparison to previous flu pandemics such as 1918, 1957 and 1976.
  • The use of basic surgical masks to prevent the contraction of the Influenza A(H1N1) virus is not effective. 'The only masks that might be of some help are the N95 masks and the reason they might be of some help is because they are much finer in their ability to block out droplets that might contain the virus,' Weisbart said. 'Anything that is not as fine a filter as an N95 would probably be of no help at all.'  

Useful Websites
World Health Organization
Centers for Disease Control
Risk Management Monitor (with the complete Dr. Steven Weisbart interview)

Further Reading
The Wall St. Journal covers economist's reaction to the outbreak
The Los Angeles Times reports scientist's view of this 'mild' flu strain
WHO to change name of flu to protect pigs

Podcast Series
Influenza A(H1N1) Virus and Pandemic Plan of Action
Part 1: Fact vs. Fiction
As the Influenza A(H1N1) virus epidemic continues to dominate headlines worldwide, it is getting more difficult to separate facts from fear. Listen as Risk Management magazine's Bill Coffin gets the inside story from Michael Liebowitz, director of risk management and insurance at New York University and past president of RIMS. Check back for upcoming segments at:

more Resources for RIMS Members
RIMS understands that this can be an unsettling time for our members and their businesses. As such, we would like to provide additional resources where you can gain more information.

Check in with eGroups where you can post and answer questions with your peers.

Log on to the Resource Library to find more articles on this pandemic and other risks in the community.

Visit RIMS new Risk Management Monitor blog to find daily stories, commentary, interviews, podcasts and videos related to the world of risk management and insurance. 



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