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International SOS has launched the latest version of Pandemic Information, an online portal featuring information on, and analysis of, emerging infectious disease outbreaks.

International SOS began monitoring emerging pandemic threats during the SARS outbreak in 2003. Since then, the company has assisted many global organizations in developing pandemic preparedness plans to support their overall business continuity and risk mitigation efforts.

New features in Pandemic Information include a consolidated news feed to see what’s occurring around the world; the locations of incidents displayed on a map; and tracking of emerging details on new infectious diseases.

In addition, clients receive access to specialised webinars, summary emails of related news, and special alerts on outbreak incidents.

Dr Doug Quarry, Medical Director, Medical Information and Analysis at International SOS, explains:

“The goal of pandemic planning is for organizations to be able to assess and respond appropriately to potential risks to their workers as part of their duty of care and to help assure the continuation of their operations.

“Often, early in outbreaks, limited information about the threat – or potential threat – leads to speculation and rumour. Staying informed and having an up-to-date pandemic business continuity plan provides a clear roadmap to reduce your risks in the early days of the unknown.”

International SOS provides the following five best practices for global organizations when reviewing their pandemic response plans:

1. Anywhere, anytime
A new virus can spread quickly. It’s important for an organization’s pandemic plan to encompass all geographies, not just those where outbreaks have occurred.

2. Fast-moving
Outbreaks can evolve rapidly. Develop a pandemic plan that is responsive and adaptive, so you can quickly and consistently communicate with staff.

3. Severity informs response
Assessing the severity of an outbreak can be a challenge. Media reports and community sentiment can have a significant impact on perception of risk. Develop processes and guidelines to assess severity in your communities, and communicate that information to your employees.

4. Responding to the unknown
There can be confusion and a lack of definitive information about the nature of a new illness. The challenge for health authorities is to communicate the unknowns in a balanced, appropriate and tailored manner, focusing broadly on practical, actionable steps that everyone should take and, where necessary, enacting more severe measures to protect specific, affected populations. An organization’s pandemic plan should further tailor the information based on employees’ needs as individuals or small groups, rather than as an entire population.

5. Variable capabilities
Some countries are better prepared to respond to an infectious disease outbreak than others are. Organizations are encouraged to examine the responses to recent outbreaks in the countries where they operate and develop plans that incorporate the global variations.

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