Avian Flu Found in France and Germany; Marsh Pandemic Survey

February 20, 2006

Although Western Europe has been preparing for its arrival for some time, the news that wild birds, infected with the deadly H5N1 virus, have been found in Germany and France still comes as a shock.

On a visit to the island of Ruegen in the Baltic Sea where 18 cases of the disease have been confirmed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the government would do everything in its power to halt the spread of the disease. She has ordered army troops into the area to help cull domestic poultry stocks that are viewed as under threat.

Over the weekend French authorities confirmed that the country’s first case of H5N1 had been found in a dead duck in the Ain region, north of Lyon. The area is particularly sensitive, as it produces large numbers of domestic poultry. Authorities have ordered that all stocks be kept indoors to avoid possible contamination from migratory birds. They are also examining other dead birds in the region for signs of H5N1.

The virus, which has been held responsible for over 90 deaths, has been spreading westward along the migration paths of wild birds. Poultry farmers have therefore been given ample warning of the disease and have been able to take preventative measures. So far the disease has not mutated into a strain that can be spread between humans. All reported cases have been caused by handling infected birds. However, national and international experts remain concerned that the possibility continues to exist. If it were to happen a worldwide pandemic could result.

With that warning in mind, Marsh Inc. in conjunction with Kroll, its security specialist, has issued the results of a “Pandemic Preparedness Survey,” aimed at establishing a coordinated response to the threat. “With avian flu continuing to cause concern among many of the world’s health organizations, governments, and business leaders, organizations are well-advised to ensure their emergency-response and business-continuity plans are up-to-date and include specific planning for dealing with a pandemic,” said a bulletin on the Company’s Website (www.marsh.com).

Marsh notes that its “Risk Consulting Practice, together with Kroll, has developed an online Pandemic Preparedness Survey that allows organizations to test their readiness and business-continuity processes.” Organizations that complete the survey will “receive an e-mail with feedback based on your responses, along with links to other avian flu resources, including contact information should you require more details on pandemic preparedness.”

Marsh also notes that the “possibility that the virus will mutate to allow sustained human-to-human transmission has health authorities on high alert. The World Bank estimates an avian flu pandemic could cause $800 billion in economic damage and disrupt virtually every corner of the world economy.

“A more in-depth discussion of risk issues associated with a pandemic can be found in the latest edition of Risk Alert, “Avian Flu: Preparing for a Pandemic,” a white paper prepared by Marsh and its sister companies Kroll and Mercer Management Consulting. The white paper provides background information on avian and human influenza pandemics, discusses corporate preparedness and business-continuity management (BCM) through the lens of a pandemic, highlights the international implications of a pandemic, and outlines some of the potential insurance coverage issues related to pandemics.”

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