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Last Updated: Friday, 27 October 2006, 05:50 GMT 06:50 UK
Flu pandemic plans under scrutiny
NI's ability to cope with a flu pandemic is being assessed
Northern Ireland organisations have been urged to avoid complacency when it comes to planning for large scale emergencies such as a flu pandemic.

The warning was made during a seminar in Antrim focusing on how businesses can survive such an outbreak.

Mr Tony Andreucetti, an emergency planning specialist, said appropriate mechanisms must be in place.

"It would be complacent to think we will be immune to such emergencies," he said.

"Although important work has been undertaken in this area we still need to redouble our efforts by investing time and energy in preparing for business continuity."

The seminar was organised by the Emergency Planning Society and entitled 'Catching corporate flu - a toolkit for survival'.

Harold Whan, of the Emergency Planning Society, said the seminar had "highlighted the inevitability of an influenza pandemic".

But he said the public "can be reassured that tremendous work has been undertaken by the public and private sector to manage such an emergency by ensuring that robust contingency mechanisms are in place".

He added: "An important outcome of the seminar has been the sharing of best practice with a view to establishing a more coordinated approach."

Simulation exercise

A recent report found that more than half of UK organisations have no business continuity plan in the event of a flu pandemic and an even greater number had no plans in place to deal with resulting absenteeism.

A simulation exercise, Winter Willow, is being drawn up for January 2007 by the government to test the UK's readiness for a flu pandemic.

Government guidelines warn that organisations should plan for absenteeism at a peak of a pandemic averaging 15% of their staff, rising to twice the number for small groups of workers.

In April, Northern Ireland's ability to cope with a flu pandemic came under the spotlight, as contingency plans were tested in Belfast.

The operation assessed how effective health and public sector planning would be in the event of a human influenza pandemic.

Scientists have warned the world is overdue for a flu pandemic with the most likely cause being if bird flu mutates with a human form of the virus.

GPs to get pandemic flu booklets
14 Nov 05 |  Northern Ireland
Flu pandemic 'will hit UK hard'
30 Sep 05 |  Health

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