Web 2.0, You and the Bird Flu

It’s a good idea for you to at least think about what might happen to you, your family, your business and your community *if* the bird flu evolves genetically and jumps to humans causing human-to-human viral transmission.

I’ve been keeping up on the developments and public pronouncements about this flu. There are Federal government sites like PandemicFlu.gov, the FluWiki, and the University of Minnesota-based Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy run by Dr. Michael Osterholm, former Minnesota State epidemiologist and a guy I’ve admired for many years since he takes a pragmatic view of infectious disease.

Let’s imagine for a moment that the H5N1 virus mutates and the pandemic begins next Winter (2006-2007). According to everything I’ve read, the world will experience deaths in the millions and an influenza pandemic could kill up to 2 million Americans and force health officials to take draconian steps such as shutting down transportation systems and quarantining entire towns.

It’s the Winter of 2007-2008 when the outbreak will hit in full force. Since most of our fellow citizens are not critical thinkers (as evidenced by the ongoing fear of the boogeyman called terrorism), the fear reactions and panic will be the hardest thing to deal with in business.

Besides having a strategy on dealing with the fallout from panic (e.g., grocery shelves depleted), and ensuring you can eat and have water to drink for several weeks, what will be the effect on your work life or business? Your kids schools if teacher’s didn’t show up (and would you even send your kids to school)?

Then there is the economic impact on any business where people co-mingle. Would your employees show up? I’m sitting in a coffee shop typing this post and a flu pandemic would kill this coffee business. Who’d come to socialize out of fear of a contagion? Who’d work in a place where anyone wandering in could bring along their parasitic companion H5N1? What would happen to the restaurant business overall?

What about the conferences business? Deliveries of goods or services? I could go on-and-on but you catch my drift.

Though this may sound ghoulish, there are many Web-centric businesses that would thrive. Any Web-based collaborative offering would explode in use. When you think about my post yesterday about Microsoft Sharepoint and their opportunity, there’s going to be an enormous demand for methods to map an existing business on to the Web and quickly.

So at least give it some thought…

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1 Comment

  1. schlarb on March 16, 2006 at 1:35 am

    steve, i’ve had the bird flu in the back of my mind for some time. the very idea is difficult to grasp and having two children, i’ve thought about how quickly i would pull them out of school were something like this to actually happen.

    it is a bit morbid but nonetheless interesting to point out that the internet would thrive. however most of those web businesses would be subject to the same pitfalls as any other business (i.e. employees not coming to work, damaged supply lines, etc.).

    all in all a chilling set of things to consider. thanks for helping me to sleep with one eye open…



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About Steve Borsch

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