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Financial Services Firms Simulate Flu Pandemic 150

Posted by Zonk
from the a-bit-of-government-cheer dept.
jcatcw writes "The U.S. Government is co-sponsoring a three-week exercise that will simulate the impact of a flu pandemic on financial services firms, including their ability to support telecommuters. The exercise is expected to be the largest in U.S. history and will involve more than 1,800 firms. From the article: 'The program will follow a compressed time frame that simulates the impact of a 12-week pandemic wave. Participants will be given information on how many absentee employees they can expect. Companies won't know exactly how hard they will be hit with sick-calls from employees until this data is made available ... In addition, participating firms won't be able to pick and choose the level of workforce reductions they get hit by.'"
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Financial Services Firms Simulate Flu Pandemic

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  • by Mr.Fork (633378) <edward.j.reddy@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:15PM (#20400827) Journal
    Why not simulate the impact of Paris Hilton going naked down the street with the words "Google RULES" painted onto her butt cheeks? I'm sure that will have a definate impact on their stock.
    • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:37PM (#20401147) Homepage Journal
      Underneath the Hilton sarcasm, P has a valid point. How useful is this, really?

      participants will gather in conference rooms and assess how their businesses would be affected if a bird flu outbreak or other pandemic resulted in major reductions in the number of available employees.
      Note they are not doing any real-world testing of what would happen. No, they are sitting in conference rooms talking about what they think would happen.
      • by nuzak (959558) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:41PM (#20401195) Journal
        > participants will gather in conference rooms

        This cracks me up like you wouldn't believe. Think about it for a moment.

      • by plague3106 (71849)
        So you'd rather they didn't even think about it?
      • by OriginalArlen (726444) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @01:28PM (#20401975)
        Whilst I'm not quite so cynical about the value of such exercises (they will tend to bring SOME unexpected problems to light; it's just that you can't guarantee that they'll find all the bugs in the process) the major problem is with the realism of what they're simulating. I did a lot of research into this a couple of years back (our then head of security said "We don't need to worry -- we have a stock of Tamiflu", and I ended up reading the clinical trial results and the datasheets for the stuff, as well as the major respectable papers on the topic. The was a dedicated issue in, I think, Nature (or it may have be> Oh BTW: the mortality rate en Science, or the BMJ - I forget), and another which was genuinely frightening (without trying to be) in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Note to the cynics -- these are about the most respected non-specialist journals of record in the relevant fields. If you're one of those "Avian flu? Pffft, Duke Nukem will arrive first" types, I advise you to go and talk to virologists and epidemiologists before talking crap about a subject you know nothing about) - Suffice to say Tamiflu increases the survival rate to about 45% -- from 35-40% when untreated. So more than half the people who get infected will die. )

        Where was I?

        Oh yes - right - 12 weeks. 12 weeks is a reasonable time frame for a single epidemic wave to cover the nation and then subside again. However the duration of the emergency is unlikely to be less than a year (the 1918 pandemic lasted a couple of years), during which time there will be multiple waves of infection in a localised population. Bear in mind that when the second wave arrives, you have n-(i*m) staff at the start of the wave (n = number of staff, i = infection rate, m=mortality rate.) And as seeing 10-20% of one's colleagues dying unpleasantly from a highly contagious disease is unlikely to increase people's enthusiasm for coming to work in an office, it's likely there'd be a huge economic hit that would take years to work it's way through - even after a free vaccine's being distributed by the U.N.

        • by Angostura (703910) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @02:19PM (#20402751)

          Suffice to say Tamiflu increases the survival rate to about 45% -- from 35-40% when untreated.


          I assume that these figures are for human infection with the existing H5N1 bird flu. It is worth pointing out that we don't know what the mortality rate of the eventual human pandemic will be, since the virus isn't here yet.
        • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @02:52PM (#20403275)
          As an FYI,
          I have read that Tamiflu is excreted essentially unchanged in your urine.
          If it comes down to life and death keep that in mind.
          • Stephen? I mean... Mr King? is that you?
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by mazarin5 (309432)

            As an FYI,
            I have read that Tamiflu is excreted essentially unchanged in your urine.
            If it comes down to life and death keep that in mind.
            --
            She was like chocolate when she drank... semi-sweet at first and then increasingly bitter.


            I can't help but to have a single mental image drawn from both your message and your sig.

            Eww.
      • by greenguy (162630)
        So... you'd like them to do real-world testing of a flu pandemic...?
        • Almost. I'd respect the results more if they did real-world simulation of a pandemic. ( Sort of like paintball is a real-world simulation of a firefight; it tells you a whole lot more about warfare than a bunch of people sitting around a conference table speculating. ) All that needs to be done is to tell certain randomly chosen people to pretend to be sick and to stop working. See how things function.
          It turns out that someone has actually done this. http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=282747&cid=2 [slashdot.org]
      • Flu (Score:2, Funny)

        by ccs.gott (1144593)
        See, I used to simulate the flu all the time... I have found that it was quite useful, until my parents caught on.
      • by archen (447353) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @02:06PM (#20402553)
        I've actually gone through a few scenarios with the flew outbreak. Where I work we've had times when our workforce has been cut by 50% by blizzard conditions. Our facility actually did function alright, however there's no way we could sustain that over say; two weeks.

        I also did some thinking about how to punch holes in the firewall and allow people to work remotely from home and such. The problem is that the network is simply going to buckle and die - if not at our T1, before then. Sure test it all you want, but what happens when EVERYONE decides to telecommute in order to keep things working? It's like 9/11. We're a company in northern PA and were putting a new accounting system into production. Well we had problems and needed outside help from the programmers across the country - just phone support mind you. Unfortunately all phone lines were down. If you had told me that blowing up two buildings in NYC would take down phone access at our company I would have laughed at you - now I really have little hope that initially anyone would be prepared for any large scale disaster.

        Personally I'm just trying to figure out what to do about keyboards. Someone is going to come in sick and cough crap up into these things. I mean it's a biohazard waiting to happen, and as an IT person you're going to have to touch more than most people. I guess gloves will be alright for a while, but we'll probably have to throw out keyboards for just about everyone in the end. Huge pain in the ass that will be.
        • by khallow (566160)
          No dount, there's some sort of spray on sterilizer compatible more or less with electronics. And you can always bathe the keyboards in isopropyl alcohol and water.
  • by eaddict (148006) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:17PM (#20400859)
    When I worked at a financial institution we had a disaster recovery test where when the employees came to work they drew a marble out of a bucket. One color meant go home - you were unavailable for work. The other meant you were OK and could work. Made for an interesting day. The IS dept I worked for at the time did have its stuff together and ran flawlessly at about 50%. Mind you, this was just to maintain business for the customers. We could NOT stay staffed at that level if ANYONE in the organization ever wanted to do more than just keep the boat afloat. I wish my existing employer would do something like this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      One color meant go home - you were unavailable for work.

      I'd keep a pocket full of different colored marbles just in case a test like this came up again...

      Employee: "Interesting, Mr. Smith, MyLongNickName has drawn a green marble 13 times in a row! What are the odds"
      Mr. Smith: "Very Interesting. We've only had 7 disaster recovery tests."
    • and how does it work when one the person who is sent home is the one who is the guy who says yes or no to things or has the passworks do people who are still working brake the rules to get there job done even if that means that you have to hack a password.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HUADPE (903765)
        and how does it work when one the person who is sent home is the one who is the guy who says yes or no to things or has the passworks do people who are still working brake the rules to get there job done even if that means that you have to hack a password.

        It means that your disaster recovery is very bad, and the organization should give more people access to the recovery tools needed for these things.
    • and how does it work when one the person who is sent home is the one who is the guy who says yes or no to things or has the passwords do people who are still working brake the rules to get there job done even if that means that you have to hack a password.
    • by kalirion (728907)
      Then this was not a test like this. In the test discussed here, nobody goes home. The execs just get together and guess what would happend if those employees didn't show up to work, while the employees themselves continue working.
  • by StefanJ (88986) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:21PM (#20400909) Homepage Journal
    We need to see how companies can hold up during a zombie infestation.

    "Awww, man, it's just a little bite. Let me finish this backup and . ." BLAMMM!
    • by bobetov (448774)
      For those who haven't heard it...

      Re: Your Brains [jonathancoulton.com] by Jonathan Coulton.

      Truly, an anthem for the modern age.
    • Wha? (Score:3, Funny)

      by Spy der Mann (805235)
      We need to see how companies can hold up during a zombie infestation.

      But, don't we already have zombies in the Customer Support lines?
    • It's funny, but you might be on to something.

      If you could keep operating in, say, the environment of the movie 28 Days Later I imagine more realistic disasters wouldn't be a challenge.

      • by AndersOSU (873247)
        I'm guessing the only viable buisness model in such a situation is Braaaains 'R Us

        In all seriousness though, this is a two sided issue, it's not just decreased workforce, it is also decreased customer base - which no one seems to be considering.
    • by sjames (1099)

      We need to see how companies can hold up during a zombie infestation.

      Mny of the big corporates would do just fine. OTOH if the zombies were wiped out they'd lose 80% of their current workforce.

  • What Pandemic? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by frank249 (100528) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:36PM (#20401129)
    Why all this concern for something that might happen[but probally won't]? 10 people who live with chickens may die[it could be 1 million!] but likely 10. What surprises me is that 30,000 people die each year in the US from the regular flu but no one seems to be concerned. Millions have died from HIV/AIDS but yet infected people cannot be restricted from having unprotected sex with uninfected people. There is likely a greater chance to be hit by an asteroid yet NASA's sky watch program is being cut. My guess that all this pandemic talk is just more fear mongering to take the public's mind off of politics and the economy is more likely.
    • Re:What Pandemic? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:48PM (#20401303)
      My guess that all this pandemic talk is just more fear mongering to take the public's mind off of politics and the economy is more likely.

      Are you REALLY that clueless, or are you just trolling because you think you're scoring some anti-the-current-administration points, somehow?

      The last real doozy of a flu pandemic killed 50-100 MILLION people [wikipedia.org] - most of whom were young, and otherwise healthy. This isn't like a once every 50 millions years asteroid collision we're talking about. Plenty of people alive right now were around when the last one happened, and lost family members. It was real. And that one happened before ubiquitous air travel between continents. We now have vastly more dense population centers, and arguably a much more fragile "just-in-time" style economy. Pretending this isn't a risk is foolish. Pretending that it's only hype from your political opponents is childish.
      • Re:What Pandemic? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Puls4r (724907) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @01:20PM (#20401819)
        It goes beyond that. We have moved away from a farm-based economy. Back then, many folks new how to grow their own food, or had access to people who did. They knew how to save food, had access to well-water that did not need pumps, etc. If there was a flu pandemic that actually created a breakdown in services, people would begin to die within 2 weeks due to stravation. Sooner due to poison / bad water supplies - or worse if the power dropped out, NO water. The original poster has to be a troll. Us folks up in the Northeast understand a bit about what will happen - the blackout several years ago showed just how fragile modern society is. Without power - gas could not be pumped. Without gas, cars and trucks did not move. Without cars and trucks, NO one showed up for work, NO deliveries were made to the supermarket. Everything in your fridge rotted inside a week. If you were lucky, like me, you live in the country and have a well where you can get water from without an electrically powered pump. If you weren't lucky, you were stuck buying bottled water - then after that you were drinking out of the tank on the back of your toilet. That's only when a small PART of the country lost power. I can't believe these idiots are running this type of simulation. If there is a flu pandemic, NO ONE is going to be going to work. Army folks who are called back aren't going to show, and the country is going to go to hell in a handbasket.
        • by Xtravar (725372)

          If there was a flu pandemic that actually created a breakdown in services, people would begin to die within 2 weeks due to stravation.
          Maybe people on the coasts, but not the midwest. Score one for fat people, wooo!!!! We're gonna ride this famine out!
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by corbettw (214229)

            Score one for fat people, wooo!!!! We're gonna ride this famine out!
            No, you'll just help us fit people last a bit longer. ;)
        • by khallow (566160)
          It doesn't take that much to keep food coming.
      • by Llywelyn (531070)

        a) That particular pandemic took off in large part because of weakened populations after a war. Plague tends to follow wars.

        b) It killed that many people *worldwide*. Localized impact, while potentially still bad, was substantially more distributed than that. Saying that it killed "50 million people" begs the question of "where."

        Are you familiar with the Swine Flu Affair? We need to be looking at not just the potential impact of a "Category 5 Pandemic" (1.8+ million dead) but also at the probabili

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ScentCone (795499)
          Fear mongering and talking about the destruction caused by the Spanish lady without framing it in these terms does everyone a disservice.

          Compared to, say, describing simulations that test a financial institution's ability to function with a partially absent workforce as some sort of conspiracy to distract the masses from politics? Come, now.

          As for people being "weakened by war" in 1918... well, sure - that took a toll. But the deaths from that strain were mostly found in people with very HEALTHY immun
      • by AndersOSU (873247)

        50-100 MILLION people ... vastly more dense population centers ... just-in-time" style economy


        I'm gonna go ahead and right Japan off right now.
      • The cool thing about that pandemic is that it killed mostly young and healthy BECAUSE they were young and healthy.
        Their immune system was strong enough to go completely psycho and essentially dissolve their own cells trying to fight the flu while older people couldn't muster that strong a response.

        But you are correct- huge numbers killed. In part because of army camps but today substitute airplanes and cube farms.

        We depend on JIT inventory way to heavily.
      • by wtansill (576643)

        And that one happened before ubiquitous air travel between continents. We now have vastly more dense population centers, and arguably a much more fragile "just-in-time" style economy. Pretending this isn't a risk is foolish. Pretending that it's only hype from your political opponents is childish.

        No air travel, but as the article below points out, we did have rail travel, and we had WWI -- which helped incubate a far more serious strain of influenza than we might other wise have had: http://www.washingtonpo [washingtonpost.com]

      • Of course it's possible that another pandemic-capable flu strain will evolve, even though the Bush Administration doesn't believe in Darwinian Evolution. (Some of their descriptions of pandemic flu evolution have been pretty close to Lysenkoism, worrying about how little the flu will have to change itself to be acquire the ability to pass from human to human, but that's a separate problem.)

        I can't say that this has never been what the Pandemic Flu scares were about, because early on there were some serious

        • by ScentCone (795499)
          You don't see the same constant consistent warnings about Hurricane Preparedness

          Oh please. Among other things, my firm consults on disaster recovery. Many of our (east coast, in particular) customers work with us specifically with weather-related disruptions in mind (hurricanes, blizzards, etc). Off site backups, telecommuting through portals hosted at data centers, etc. They are only just now beginning to ask themselves how they'd function if a large percentage of their employees were either sick or wor
          • My firm does disaster-recovery consulting as well, though since I'm in California my customers are more likely to care about earthquakes than the hardware failures or router bugs or hurricanes that our East Coast product developers are more likely to focus on, and after Katrina hit there was a lot of exploration of which carriers had infrastructure in New Orleans. (And of course after 9/11 hit most large businesses, especially New York financials, got a much different perspective on their DR issues.)

            But th

    • Re:What Pandemic? (Score:4, Informative)

      by l-ascorbic (200822) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @01:15PM (#20401731)
      I don't think the World Health Organisation is interested in scaremongering and taking the public's mind of domestic politics. Their take: "The risk of pandemic influenza is serious" [who.int].

      During past pandemics, attack rates reached 25-35% of the total population. Under the best circumstances, assuming that the new virus causes mild disease, the world could still experience an estimated 2 million to 7.4 million deaths (projected from data obtained during the 1957 pandemic). Projections for a more virulent virus are much higher. The 1918 pandemic, which was exceptional, killed at least 40 million people. In the USA, the mortality rate during that pandemic was around 2.5%.

      Think about it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sane? (179855)
      Google the phrase "cytokine storm" if you don't already know why pandemic flu is different.
    • by GreyyGuy (91753)
      Given the hype around Y2K, the environment, and everything else that we have been told is "bad and will happen- it just hasn't happened yet" I can understand that attitude. The problem is that flu pandemics happen, and fairly regularly. The last one was in the early 1900 and killed millions. The bird flu (called that because it starts in birds but has jumped to humans originally though livestock but also through pigeons) might not be the next pandemic, but there will be another one. The bird flu is the curr
  • There are 100 firms based in NY with an average of Z traders while only 30 firms (each with an average of W traders) based in SF. Assume the spread factor of a pandemic is \mu. You have a pandemic flu virus at your disposal, what is your winning strategy for basing your headquarters and why?

    Followup question (assuming top question was answered correctly:

    You have chosen to infect "the other city" with the pandemic flu, estimate how long your competitive advantage will last (assume you have X employees).
  • by dragonsomnolent (978815) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:42PM (#20401203) Homepage
    Seriously, surely they wouldn't have as great an impact as say food re-distribution. I work for a major food re-distributer and if something knocked out 50% of our warehouse workers and truck drivers, it would certainly trickle down to our customers, I hate to think what would happen if vital services across the country were knocked down to 50% of normal workforce for a long period of time.
    • by u38cg (607297)
      Warehouse staff and truck drivers can be replaced fast, by soldiers if need be, to keep distribution moving (if your government has a clue (not sure about this) it has a pretty detailed plan for this). Day traders are more difficult to replace at short notice. And before someone questions the neccessity of the latter over the former, try buying food when your pension fund just went belly up.
      • by AndersOSU (873247)
        According to a quick google there are ~3.4 million truckers in the US. There are also 1.4 million active duty military personnel.

        What this means that if there were an pandemic flu, and 30% of everybody were unable to work, even if every single non-sick member of the military were put to work driving trucks (generals, intelligence, computer specialists, etc.) they'd only just be able to keep the number of truckers constant. Now when you take into account that a large portion of the military isn't in the US
        • We also have reserves and a National Guard, but you are essentially right. Then again, keeping trucking at 70-80% capacity as opposed to 40-50% capacity is more of the goal--no one is expecting a national emergency to be easy to live through. Most likely we'll have to institute rationing programs--which means fewer trucks carrying DVDs and iPods and more trucks carrying food products.
      • Nonsense. You can live without a stock market for six months. Try doing the same thing with your food supply. Having said that, I see no obvious reason that the stock market has to close (aside from possible short term anti-panic measures). Just transition it all online to greatly reduce person to person interaction.
    • by gardyloo (512791)
      Thank goodness 50% of your customers will be out of commision too! There's always a silver lining :)
      • Thank goodness 50% of your customers will be out of commision too!

        Yeah, but it will be the nice 50%. You'll have super concentrated a-hole customers left over. ;)

    • by AndersOSU (873247)
      My HS history teacher used to say that the best way to start major civil unrest in the US was to organize a trucker strike.

      Once food stops showing up in grocery stores people get fighting mad awful quick.
  • sounds incomplete (Score:5, Interesting)

    by khallow (566160) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:49PM (#20401317)
    I think there's two further aspects to model here. First, what happens when people are sick, but show up anyway? Do the companies have policies in place to force these people home and will bosses and employees respect these policies? Second, do they have liability protection in case an employee (say a boss) forces people to show up and those people (or their families and many friends) get sick and possibly die? For example, if a boss forces a sick employee to stay in the department or forces an employee to come in (apparently the safest place you can be is to stay for a few weeks in a well-ventilated home or apartment with no contact with the outside world, showing up for work puts you at some risk, especially if you use public transportation or enter a public area like a store, say to pay for gas), there is the potential for the company to become liable for a large number of deaths, not just from the employees but also from the people they could infect down the road.
    • Re:sounds incomplete (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @01:17PM (#20401773)
      It's even weirder than that. My organization has policies in place, including issuing surgical masks to employees to wear during work. When questioned about why N95 masks wouldn't be issued (seeing as they are proven to be more effective), I was told that, since N95's are technically respirators, special training would need to be given, and we don't have the resources. Else we were open to liability if someone with asthma or a heart condition dies. So I say, "well, that's fine, but I'm wearing my own N95"

      Actual response: "You will be sent home, or disciplined if you refuse, on the grounds of wearing inapprpriate clothing, the same as if you came in wearing just a jockstrap. We can't afford to have other employees seeing you with better respiratory equipment and asking why you are wearing it and not them. It opens us up to liability of not providing proper equipment"

      So they are unwilling to be sued for a random heart attack, but are wiling to be liable for an unlawful termination suit from me and hundreads, if not thousands, of negligence suits from everyone in the organization who dies while not wearing an surgical mask provided by their employer, which is known to be inadequate protection.

      Fucking pussies.
      (Posted AC because I think someone will figure out who I am - I actually do like my job, just not some of the idiots I work with)
    • by Renraku (518261)
      Hell no they don't.

      They'll probably let you go home if you're sick, but a shocking percentage of workers think they'll get chastized/fired if they miss work due to genuine illness..and some companies do this.

      Some companies require a fucking doctor's note or they'll count each absense against you. That's at least $20 every time you're out, or else..and standing in line with a bunch of other sick people, etc.
      • Luckily I'm a small shop, so when one of my guys is sick, I tell them to go home and not to come back until they're feeling well. If they don't have sick leave, I'll cover it to keep the office healthy. Then again, I'm not on much of a critical path for human services (Oh my god, who's going to design that building if we're not around!). I can afford to lose one of my employees for a week - losing the whole staff would put a crimp in the company finances (to put it mildly).
    • showing up for work puts you at some risk, especially if you use public transportation or enter a public area like a store, say to pay for gas
      Whew, good thing I live in NJ, where we're not allowed to pump our own gas and therefore almost no stores have inside-the-store payment capability. It's nice to know that come the flupocalypse, NJ's air (especially around the gas stations) will be among the most disease-free of any state.

      /snicker

  • by R2.0 (532027) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:50PM (#20401327)
    I work for a Very Large Charitable Organization in facilities construction, and our group has gotten involved in some of the pandemic flu planning. There are some truly frightening scenarios out there, from "Really Bad Flu Season", through "1918, Part II", to TEOTWAWKI.

    The part where some of it hit home for me was when a coworker, who is our resident disaster junkie/survivalist, came back from his first panflu planning meeting. Normally he comes back from meetings grumbling that no one is taking a problem seriously. This time he was concerned that he himself hadn't been taking it seriously enough, and I've been to his bunker site!

    Currently in Indonesia the mortality rate for bird flu cases is around 50%, and they are starting to see human to human transmission. If the lethality of the virus survives the mutation to a strain more transmissible between humans, one can assume that it will infect about 25% of the world populace - that was 1918 numbers, it will probably be more now with easy international travel and higher density in the cities.

    So, if you sit in a pod of 8 cubicles, here's the breakdown (1918 transmissibility, current lethality)

    1 of you is dead
    1 of you is permanently disabled, or out for months of recovery

    So now your workforce is reduced by 25% - oh, wait, 2 of you will also be out caring for sick loved ones, so that's half gone. And medical personnel are basically gone - they have been exposed multiple times and are either dead, sick, or not going to work because they don't want to become either (btw, that's not my projection, that's from the CDC).

    Vaccine? Indonesia is not giving samples to international health authorities, for fears that any vaccine developed will be too expensive for them to afford (not a paranoid assumption)

    Conclusion: Go buy some N95 masks and gloves (both cheap) and just pay a little attention. Neitehr will go to waste - use the gloves for working on cars and the masks for wood shop. And just pay attention.
    • So now your workforce is reduced by 25% - oh, wait, 2 of you will also be out caring for sick loved ones, so that's half gone

      Meh. Your math is off, since those sets intersect.

      If 25% get infected, and 25% need to care for sick loved ones, you're talking about 43.75% reduction in workforce, not 50%.

      Doomsayer. Way to blow it out of proportion with your fuzzy maths and your nice round numbers.

      Seriously, though, 25% or 50% reduction in workforce, it doesn't matter -- the economy will be crippled. Don't f

      • by khallow (566160)

        If 25% get infected, and 25% need to care for sick loved ones, you're talking about 43.75% reduction in workforce, not 50%.

        If you're talking about something that nasty. the overlap between the two sets will be smaller than expected. Namely, the sick will be unlikely to have the energy to care for others. In some of the 1918 stories (as I recall, of course), there are cases where entire households became bedridden and they only survived because of help from a neighbor. As I recall, in the book, "The Plag

    • Unfortunately, an N95 mask isn't going to help: http://www.ph.ucla.edu/EPI/bioter/n95masks.html [ucla.edu]
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by R2.0 (532027)
        Did you even read your own link?

        "Although anthrax spores and smallpox aren't paint chips, the masks do provide protection against bioterrorism, since the most likely used bacterium would be dispersed in particle form, Utgoff says. In fact, the anthrax mail attacks first spotlighted the N95, as office mailrooms scurried for protective gear.

        The N95 is made by various manufacturers under different names, from MSA's "Affinity Foldable Respirator" to 3M's "Particulate Respirator." Look for "NIOSH N95" on the pac
    • by Toffins (1069136) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @05:30PM (#20405279)
      Most flu infections are not transmitted by breathing in airborne virus particles.
      The commonest route of flu infection is actually

      • by touching shared surfaces such as door handles, toilets, items of furniture, coins and notes, doors, windows and seats especially those in taxis and other forms of public transportation, and

      • by not washing and disinfecting your hands afterwards before touching things that go in your mouth such as food, drink containers, toothbrushes, etc.

      This is how most people get infected, and N95 face masks offer no protection against this.

      Surfaces, especially damp or wet ones, easily become contaminated whenever a flu-infected person touches them or coughes or sneezes droplets of infected saliva or mucus onto them. Touching a flu-virus-contaminated surface is a very effective method of infecting yourself. It delivers a relatively massive dose of virus particles, several orders of magnitude more than by breathing contaminated air without wearing a face mask. Flu virus is extremely infectious by ingestion.

      It is not true that flu is usually transmitted by airborne virus particles and that N95 face masks protect you against flu infection.

      One of the countermeasures for a flu pandemic that is being considered is compulsory quarantine of infected people to prevent them coughing and sneezing their infected mucus and saliva onto public surfaces that would infect other people.

  • "The U.S. Government is co-sponsoring a three-week exercise that will simulate..."

    I really don't trust our government doing simulations anymore.
  • by Puls4r (724907) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @01:28PM (#20401961)
    I originally posted some of this as a reply to someone else, but I've seen so many folks posting things under the same assumption that I wanted to make a more generalized response.

    Who, in their right mind, seeing 1/3 of the population dieing around them, in their houses, etc, is going to be going to work? Hospital workers will be dead. Military folks are not going to respond to being called-back, and frankly the close living quarters of the military is the best for spreading it around the force.

    Folks, picture this. Your next door neighbor dies. The next day, co-workers start dieing. Are you going to go back to work?

    Why are these "simulations" so naive that they believe folks will continue to work, rather than staying with their families? I'm not exactly and end-of-days kind of guys, but the folks on here discussing people telecommuting to work are insane. If half the people in the country are going to be dieing or caring for dieing folks, people aren't going to be worrying about how many strawberries are picked, cows are slaughtered, cars are made, or stocks are traded.
    • by rcw-work (30090)

      Folks, picture this. Your next door neighbor dies. The next day, co-workers start dieing. Are you going to go back to work?

      Because of the time delay. You'll be symptom-free for a day or two after the initial infection and your doomed coworkers won't die for several more days. Are you really likely to figure out that this is the next pandemic flu before your coworkers expose you to it?

    • If people we're so attached civilization wouldn't exist. Someone has to do the job, especially if its vital to society.
    • When SARS struck Hong Kong, the effect in Toronto (Ontario) was considerable, as there is a significant population that travels between Hong Kong and Toronto. All the streets were dead, and you wouldn't see anyone walking the usually crowded downtown streets. (Well, there were a few, but a tiny fraction of the number.) Retail business drooped, and in fact some Chinese places (especially restaurants) went belly-up due to lack of income.

      The majority of these people who stayed home weren't having symptoms.
    • Who, in their right mind, seeing 1/3 of the population dieing around them, in their houses, etc, is going to be going to work?

      Actually - it's the people who don't go back to work are not in their right minds. No matter what happens, if I don't have that paycheck I don't have a house, car, or food.

      Military folks are not going to respond to being called-back, and frankly the close living quarters of the military is the best for spreading it around the force.

      Military folks are not going to r

  • One of the major problems in these types of simulation are that no knock on effects are simulated. The assumption is made that people will continue to come into work and will indeed work to someone else's plan. In reality people will look after themselves and their family, which will mean closing the door and staying at home. Work will be unimportant; who would seriously take that degree of risk for a meagre salary.

    At our rough calculations the transition from business as usual to total shutdown will take

  • The Stand (Score:2, Funny)

    by Copperfield (1117631)
    I'm not worried. I'm certain that I am immune to Captain Trips. Which city I end up going to, is another matter entirely.
  • If a real flu pandemic came I'd be a lot more worried about water, electricity/gas and food than how my stocks are doing. Have they already done these simulations or are we getting more like the Golgafrinchams?
  • It doesn't so much simulate a flu panic, as much as it simulates a **PANIC**.

    Like at the end of the DotComBoom, the recent housing(lending) problem, and any other panic situations. Panic is panic; those involved will always operate the same way: based on fear, not facts.

  • Oh yeah, what will the companies do when people don't show up to work? Oh woe are those businesses. I feel so bad for them. That should be our first concern when people are sick and dying. Banks making money is obviously more important than people getting sick and dying. Pricks.
  • If not for the obvious social benefits, cost reduction, or for employee satisfaction, pandemic preparedness is a good enough reason to permit telecommuting wherever practical. In the event it's necessary, only those who telecommute already will be at 100% productivity. The rest will not have developed the necessary work habits or adapted to the different communication strategies needed to successfully telecommute. They also may not have the resources they need in place at home, and depending on how bad thin

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

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