US better prepared for flu outbreak than feared

Report released on US financial services pandemic exercise

WASHINGTON, DC – The US financial services industry is better equipped to deal with a pandemic outbreak than first feared, according to a report released on last year’s government-sponsored sector-wide pandemic flu exercise.

The simulation tested the industry’s ability to function with absentee rates of 49% across the US. Elaborating on the initial results released last October, the recent findings include industry responses to business continuity issues such as communication, stockpiling equipment and anti-virus medication.

Officials say new lessons were also learned. “The results of this report demonstrate the clear need for conducting this exercise,” says Treasury deputy assistant secretary Valerie Abend. “Even businesses who had pandemic plans in place found that a global avian flu outbreak poses complex issues and were able to identify areas where more work was needed.”

The exercise was sponsored by the US Department of the Treasury, the Financial Services Sector Co-ordinating Council for Critical Infrastructure Protection and Homeland Security, and the Financial and Banking Information Infrastructure Committee.

Conducted between September 24 and October 12, 2007 with more than 2,700 participating organisations, it was the largest pandemic simulation so far held for the financial services industry.

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