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Saturday, January 21, 2006 

OCI calls on business community to draft contingency plans for avian 'bird' flu pandemic

by OCI press release
Posted: Jan 20, 2006 15:47 UTC

PHILIPSBURG - Oriental Caribbean Insurances (OCI) Managing Director Theo Liu, says St. Maarten businesses should start thinking about having a contingency plan with respect to a pandemic human outbreak of avian ‘bird’ flu.

“Many businesses on the island, especially the big business operations have business continuity plans with respect to hurricanes and other natural perils. The world that we live in today is changing and the risks are getting bigger. We can all recall the SARS outbreak in Asia which resulted in countries all around the world taking measures.“Businesses are well advised to review and revise their plans in light of the bird flu threat. In Europe, the H5N1 strain has been discovered in bird flocks in Turkey, Russia, Romania and Croatia, before that Asia was the only area being impacted. That is how it started and now we’ve seen the first human cases of bird flu that has left approximately four persons dead in Turkey.

“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), while the virus is spreading, the cases do not signal the start of a pandemic as the disease was not passed between humans. So far there have not been any confirmed cases of human-to-human transmissions, and all the sufferers are believed to have contracted avian flu from close contact with sick birds,” Liu pointed out.

OCI Director Liu says global insurance risk managers have been following avian 'bird' flu developments very closely and advising the business community around the world on what to expect and how to prepare.

A panel of experts came together at an event, arranged by international insurance broker Marsh and sister companies Kroll and Mercer, to discuss risks posed by an avian ‘bird’ flu pandemic whereby the WHO predicts that 25 per cent of the global workforce would be debilitated at any one time should a pandemic occur.“Another aspect for St. Maarten businesses, especially food suppliers since we import 95 per cent of our food supply, is to ensure their supply chain remained intact to supply local consumption and the tourism sector.

International risk managers are asking businesses to consider several factors before a pandemic begins such as understanding the nature of the disease and the potential means by which it could directly and indirectly affect their operations, examining sales impacts, re-examining supply chains to assess the risks associated with the continuation of service from suppliers.

We cannot as a nation wait until the last moment to study these types of things and attempt to take action because it would have already been too late,” Liu advised on Thursday.

The international insurance industry has also been warned that its potential exposure to the impact of avian ‘bird’ flu may not be confined to the virus turning into a human pandemic, but that insurers could be faced with further problems if the virus leaps from fowl to pigs or horses.Aon insurance company has reported in a white paper that travel, tourism and global trade would grind to a halt in the event of a pandemic as governments fought to control the spread of the disease.

OCI is located at Bush Road Office #77, Unit 4 above Photo Gumbs and on Union Road #92D, Cole Bay.

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