As the influenza A virus (H1N1), also known as swine flu, keeps spreading in defiance of expectations, many companies are quietly stockpiling emergency supplies of antiviral drugs to protect employees and profits.
“It’s a sort of insurance,” said Paula Allen, a vice-president at Shepell-fgi, a firm that arranges employee-assistance programs “There is an obligation to protect employees.”
There have been 60,000 confirmed cases around the world so far, which has been declared a pandemic. Until now, the severity of illness has been considered only moderate.
Pandemic planning has become big business in recent years, sparked by the SARS outbreak and fear of a worldwide avian flu pandemic. Where business continuity plans once focused mostly on system-wide computer failures, many now consider the possibility of a pandemic.
The province has stockpiled enough antivirals to treat 25 per cent of the province’s population should that many people become seriously ill from the virus.
Businesses are free to stockpile for preventative purposes but in the unlikely event the province needs more antivirals, it has the authority to commandeer inventories from businesses that stockpile them.