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Avian Flu in Asia

An Agriculture Ministry worker sprays disinfectant at cages at a bird farm in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Sept. 26, 2005. (quiplash/flickr)

An Agriculture Ministry worker sprays disinfectant at cages at a bird farm in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Sept. 26, 2005. (quiplash/flickr)

Andrew Erickson: Elisabeth, you have raised an excellent question here. Obviously there is a tremendous moral concern here: how safe is the world in its entirety, not just regions that happen to be more fortunate in terms of what resources they have available. But it is really also a practical question. When you are talking about infectious diseases, as we know, they know no borders. If one region is at risk, the weak link, if you will, where people are suffering the most with this sort of threat inevitably, it will pore over into other more fortunate areas. That is why, among other things, I was particularly encouraged to hear in the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Mullen's speech—a huge emphasis on humanitarian operations. I think there is a growing understanding of the globalized nature of security in the 21st century in terms of concrete issues. My understanding is that the U.S. is in the process of establishing a pacific regional coordination center for rapid communications coordination and information sharing among forty three pacific nations to facilitate mutual efforts that could be positive. The U.S. is also heavily involved in the military medical labs syndromic surveillance network which monitors over 30 sites in Southeast Asia. So trying to create a full picture of where the greatest risks of people may be and working accordingly. I would also say that I am very happy that the U.S. is committing these resources. But I should also say that the U.S. needs to be humble and learn from people who have had to deal with these infectious diseases such as avian influenza directly. Some other nations policies and systems have been tested much more than that of the U.S., which has fortunately not fully been tested at this point. I think the U.S. is in the process of talking with its partners and learning better so that we can all fight this collective threat more effectively.

Elisabeth Rosenthal:
Thank you. I wanted to ask Donald Ainslie about the issue of personal protection versus the global fight, which often is not synchronous. Protecting your employees and your company and making sure that your company can continue to function may or may not. You want medication or vaccine for your employees first and then it is a second issue how the government gets it for its programs. How do you deal with the conflicts that will inevitably arise for scarce resources and what do you tell companies?

Donald G. Ainslie: First of all I think this is something that we cannot do in a vacuum. What I tell our member firms and what I tell clients when I talk to them, the planning needs to start in house, but the planning also needs to bridge the gap between our clients our customers, and our local communities because we are in this together. There is a good example in Katrina, where a local brewery instead of brewing beer decided to brew water by bottled water to the Katrina victims. My point here is if we can pull together good plans so people understand what they need to do, that they should have a two month supply of food and water. We should have the ability that we can do remote access and all that other. But we have a social responsibility, and that social responsibility starts with our local communities and work with the local governments.

Elisabeth Rosenthal: What do you tell people when you talk about a simple plan, that plans need to be simple beyond telecommuting? You want to give us five basics about what a simple plan involves.

Donald G. Ainslie:
First of all, it all starts with your HR policies that make sure that they are flexible enough to allow the people and the organization to feel that they don't have to come to the office and that the work is structured in such a way that they can work remotely. Communication is critical. You need to have a concise communication plan so that you can communicate with your employees, your partners, your customers, your clients. Education awareness—as I have mentioned, we have rolled out a e-learning module. It is important that you get the word out there. What it is? What is Avian Influenza? What can the individual do personally? I had a phone call a few months back from an operation in India, and the folks were concerned about eating chicken. So I think the concern that I would have is the fact that these rumors will start to fly, and you need to power your people. The other thing is from a regulatory standpoint. What would the regulatory market look like in a pandemic? Would the government require companies to start the monitoring report in individuals that have a virus or individuals that have been recovered, or individuals that have vital skills that can provide good services in the recovery effort? So that is just a sampling of what I feel is important. The most important thing is that you communicate with your people.