Which Disease Could be the Next Ebola?

Ebola is largely out of the news cycle these days, but that doesn’t mean the threat of another outbreak has disappeared. Doctors and others are working diligently to prevent another outbreak in those countries that were devastated by the disease.

The Next Epidemic After EbolaEbola is not the only disease that has the ability to reach true pandemic levels. There are lesser known diseases that have the possibility to become an even larger threat than Ebola. Which diseases have the greatest chance of causing the next global outbreak? Aside from the devastating human toll, what are the economic costs of these horrific epidemics? Most importantly, how can you best protect your organization in the event of an outbreak?

Exploring the Economic Cost of an Outbreak

The human cost of the recent Ebola outbreak was tragic. A little discussed aspect of the epidemic was the devastating hit to the economy in the countries most affected by the disease – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The World Bank estimates the economies of those three countries took a $1.6 billion dollar hit. This equals approximately 12 percent of their GDP. It is terrifying to imagine the effect of an epidemic on a larger scale spread throughout countries with much more robust economies. An epidemic, such as Ebola, can absolutely cripple businesses operating in affected areas. Between closed borders, quarantines and the shutdown of basic services on national, regional and municipal levels, it becomes easy to imagine how one’s business or humanitarian mission would be put in dire peril.

Which Disease Will Cause The Next Pandemic?

The recent Ebola epidemic caused widespread fear and panic. However, Ebola is actually very difficult to transmit from one person to another. This is one of the reasons why doctors were able to effectively contain the outbreak. We might not be so lucky if one of the following diseases reaches the same exposure levels as Ebola.

There is currently a MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in South Korea. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MERS is a viral respiratory illness that is relatively new to humans. The virus was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has spread to a number of other countries, including the United States. The majority of people infected with MERS develop severe acute respiratory illness including fever, cough and shortness of breath. It is estimated that MERS has a mortality rate of 35%. The South Korean outbreak began on May 20, 2015 when a man was diagnosed after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia. Since then, there have been a total of 150 cases reported with 16 reported deaths. More than 5,200 people are currently in quarantine. This outbreak is causing a severe effect on South Korea’s economy. A Morgan Stanley report estimated that the outbreak, if sustained for a month, could cut South Korea’s growth by .15 percentage points this year. There is no vaccine for MERS.

According to Peter Daszak, an infectious disease expert, two of the likeliest candidates for the next pandemic are the Nipah virus and Rift Valley Fever. The World Health Organization explains that Nipah was first identified during an outbreak of disease that took place in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia in 1998. Farmers there were afflicted by symptoms including fever, headache and muscle aches. Within one week of infection, 60% of the patients were in a coma and ultimately more than 70% of the patients died. It is thought that human to human transmission of the Nipah virus is now possible as there is no vaccine.

According to the CDC, Rift Valley Fever is a viral disease most commonly observed in domesticated animals such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and camels. Rift Valley Fever can be transmitted and cause illness in humans. The disease was first reported in livestock during the 1910’s in Kenya. The largest human outbreak of Rift Valley Fever occurred in Kenya in 1997 and 1998 when over 90,000 people were infected and 478 deaths were reported.

But perhaps the most worrisome possibility is that of something we’re all familiar with – the flu. Robert G. Webster, chair of the virology division at St Jude children’s research hospital, gives a worst case scenario of the H5N1 Avian Flu becoming as lethal for humans as it is for chickens. He stated that studies have shown it takes only three mutations for the Avian Flu to become highly lethal. The flu mutates on a regular basis.

How Can Clements Help To Protect Your Organization?

In response to the Ebola crisis, Clements has developed a custom emergency evacuation policy which can be added on to an existing kidnap and ransom policy, and allows an evacuation for multiple types of emergencies including political upheaval, security issues, natural disasters, or epidemics if any of these are deemed catastrophic by the emergency management company linked to that insurance policy. Previously, Clements only offered emergency medical evacuation insurance that would be triggered by a person being sick. There is also a salary continuation component for the emergency evacuation policies (the salary continuation is restricted by policy limits). 

Business interruption insurance is also important since you may have to abandon your business activities. Organizations should consider business interruption insurance to pay an organization’s lost income and fixed costs. Restrictions may apply as to the waiting time required before business Interruption insurance is activated.

A common misperception is that an organization’s property insurance will provide coverage for lost income and fixed costs. However, property insurance includes reimbursement costs for assets and only limited, in any, reimbursement for lost income. Business interruption insurance supports property insurance. If there is direct damage to the organization that correlates to the abandonment or loss of business property, business interruption insurance can provide much needed support during difficult times.

Although the discussion of Ebola as a global threat has largely diminished, the danger of devastating pandemics is ever-present. Clements Worldwide is committed to helping organizations protect their employees and business in the event of another deadly epidemic.  

Call us today at +1.202.872.0060 or 800.872.0067 or e-mail request@clements.com to discuss your organization's needs.

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