Managing Your Potential Infectious Disease Exposures: 3 Steps
In the Congo, more than 50 suspected, probable, and confirmed Ebola cases and 25 deaths have been reported as of June 2, according to the World Health Organization. In India, 14 deaths and more than two dozen confirmed and suspected cases of Nipah virus disease have been reported as of May 28. These outbreaks are limited in scope and have not to date arisen to the level of international health emergencies. But they are reminders of the threat infectious diseases can pose to individuals and organizations.
Here are three ways global businesses can manage their potential exposure to Ebola, Nipah, and other public health threats.
It’s critical that businesses periodically review, test, and update their preparedness programs, including emergency response, business continuity, crisis management, and crisis communications plans. These plans should help organizations identify, respond to, and recover from the potential effects of an outbreak. Among other items, plans should:
- Include a means to monitor progression of the outbreak.
- Consider the effects of government response actions, such as border closures or travel restrictions, on your organization and people.
- Include procedures to follow in the event of a suspected case of Ebola, Nipah, or other infectious disease involving an employee or an employee’s family member, including steps to minimize the potential for transmission to other workers.
- Account for the possibility of key personnel being unable to work or only being able to work remotely.
If you have interests in countries affected by infectious disease outbreaks, make sure to review any travel warnings and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government agencies. And think carefully before any employees travel there — unless it is business-critical, consider curtailing travel to affected countries. If travel is absolutely necessary, make sure employees are familiar with how infectious diseases are transmitted and the CDC’s infection-control recommendations. Travelers should also be ready for potential screening and isolation measures that could be imposed at international airports, seaports, and land crossings.
Several forms of insurance coverage, including workers’ compensation, property, business interruption, and contract frustration, may respond if an insured is directly affected by infectious disease outbreaks. But most “traditional” forms of coverage do not address the indirect effects of outbreaks and pandemics, including the loss of business because of public fear of travel. New insurance products are now emerging that account for changes in public sentiment, including parametric policies that are triggered by specific conditions being met rather than direct losses. Risk professionals should discuss these options with their insurance advisors and consider if they’re appropriate for their organizations.
Although the current outbreaks have to date not been classified as global health emergencies, it’s important for organizations to consider their potential effects on people and operations. Take the time now to review your preparedness plans, travel procedures, and insurance programs to address your exposure to infectious disease risks.