Following the outbreak of H5N1 in the UK, Marsh has outlined the risks and insurance implications for British businesses arising from Avian Flu and a subsequent human pandemic.
Currently H5N1 is not in itself a business threat except to the poultry industry. UK businesses in the poultry industry should take it very seriously if they are not already doing so. In Marsh's experience of this sector there are already very high standards of hygiene and safety, and businesses have already planned for an outbreak of this nature.
Pandemic flu arising from a mutation of H5N1 would be less deadly than Avian Flu, but could lead to 50% absence from work at the peak, and therefore is a major business threat. The outbreak in Norfolk makes this no more likely to happen. The required mutation is more likely to occur in parts of the world where people live in close proximity to livestock, and will spread from there.
The time to be really concerned is when a mutation is reported that allows the virus to be transmitted from human to human. At that point it may be only a matter of weeks before it jumps continents - and is likely to lead to immediate extensive restrictions on travel, and possibly the passage of some goods. This is a real threat and businesses should take precautions.