Influenza Pandemic Official

Yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the outbreak of the H1N1 virus a pandemic. WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said nearly 30,000 confirmed cases have been reported in 74 countries, but noted that with few exceptions, countries with large numbers of cases are those with good surveillance and testing procedures in place. WHO expects the pandemic will be of moderate severity, though it acknowledged that severity can vary, depending on many factors, from one country to another. On present evidence, WHO noted that the overwhelming majority of patients experience mild symptoms and make a rapid and full recovery. “Worldwide the number of deaths is small. Each and every one of these deaths is tragic, and we have to brace ourselves to see more. However, we do not expect to see a sudden and dramatic jump in the number of severe or fatal infections,† Dr Chan said. However, she went on to note that a characteristic feature of pandemics is their rapid spread to all parts of the world. “Countries should prepare to see cases, or the further spread of cases, in the near future. Countries where outbreaks appear to have peaked should prepare for a second wave of infection,† she added. Check out the LexisNexis Insurance Law Center for discussion of potential insurance coverage implications related to flu pandemics. A 2006 I.I.I. study by chief economist Dr. Steven Weisbart found that a moderate influenza outbreak, similar to those of 1957 and 1968 could cost life insurers an estimated $31 billion. A severe pandemic, like the 1918 influenza outbreak, could cost insurers up to $133 billion.

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