Monday, April 27, 2009

Global Swine Flu threat: How does it impact those in Global businesses?

Anybody watching the global news is probably getting an updated image of the Swine Flue pandemic and doesn`t need to read a blog entry to get updates. The media - CNN, BBC et al - are certainly playing a role in generating awareness, and sometimes overwhelming us with a minute-by-minute update that borders on hysteria.

While the panic was restricted to the US, it seems to have global in the past two days.
Yesterday WHO Raised the global Threat Level. Washington Post reports that "E.U. Issues Conflicting Warnings on Travel as First Cases Outside N. America Are Confirmed" However, others are reporting that EU warns against non-essential travel to Mexico & US "The European Union's health commissioner urged Europeans on Monday to postpone nonessential travel to the United States or Mexico due to swine flu."

A few additional perspectives from the blogsphere:

  • Bruce blogs on Economics of Swine Flu: Scaring the Economy to Death? “The initial reaction to the outbreak of the flu has been to, “stay at home and watch TV”. The effects are noticeable. Some restaurants have closed due to lack of customers. The retailers have yet another thing to worry about. There is less traffic on the roads this morning.”
  • Man’s Worst Enemies: A History Of Animal-Borne Epidemics The blog has a set of pictures on epidemics from the past including plagues, Ebola and Mad Cow diseases. I wouldn’t go to the blog while having my dinner.
  • Richard Walden blogs on Huffington Post on Swine Flu Outbreak Precautions Begin. Richard takes a pragmatic look at the preparedness in the US "This may sound highly dramatic but in reality this type of preparedness activity is beginning to unfold across the USA and in many other countries.” And voices a cautiously optimistic note “We do not yet know the lethality of this particular strain or mix of animal and human viruses, but it appears at first glance less deadly than the "bird flu" virus which caused over 250 deaths in Asia over the past 5 years and decimated tens of millions of chickens and ducks in Asian countries where they are an important part of the food supply. That virus rarely "jumped species" from animal to man and it was never airborne."
  • Swine flu update: Europe and the bottom of the world
  • H1N1 Swine Flu (Google Maps): Interesting Web 2.0 mashup of the flu. Trust the techies to capatilize on any interesting trend. . . and provide innovative "solutions"

Footnote: For those of us in the business of Globalization, such epidemics certainly a cause for concern. This said,

  • In the short run the pandamic will certainly impact trade and business as people get hesitant to get on a plane, travel and attend critical meetings. Companies, especially multinationals may send out travel advisories based on their individual corporate risk assessments. More governments may issue travel advisories. Cross-continental and international travellers may have to undergo additional screening.
  • In the mid-term, say next few weeks: one should be watching with caution, use common sense while travelling and of course have confidence that the authorities around the world are going to do their best to contain the epidemic. Of course, HR departments, corporate security groups and governments are perhaps doing a quick scan of lessons learnt from that the SARS era. Note to self: there is an irony that the SARS scare also came at a time of global slowdown (in the tech sector)
  • In the long run, things will settle back into a pattern. Most of us in the business of globalization remember SARS virus scare that had a similar short-term impact on global trade . . . but was soon forgotten.