IBM is introducing a consulting service designed to help businesses plan for a widespread outbreak of avian flu.
Concerns about the spread of bird flu have escalated following recent outbreaks in Turkey and Indonesia. The H5N1 avian flu virus has so far killed over 120 people in nine countries, according to the World Health Organisation.
IBM says its Contingency Planning Assessment (CPA) service is aimed at helping businesses understand their potential exposure to a bird flu and implement strategies to safeguard employees and maintain operations in the event of an outbreak.
According to the US Pandemic Implementation Plan, in the event of an outbreak of bird flu, employers should assume that up to 40% of staff will be absent from work for periods of two weeks or longer. Multiple waves of infections could last between two and three months.
Commenting on the new service, Philippe Jarre, VP, global business continuity and resiliency services, IBM, says business Risk management is all about preparing for exposure to risk - and a pandemic is like any other major risk.
"It is critical for organizations to understand how they could be impacted, to consider different options to keep employees working safely, and to ensure continued connections with suppliers and customers. Any investments made now will only serve to benefit the competitiveness of the business in the future," says Jarre.
IBM says the assessment can be deployed with small businesses, as well as a large global operation with multiple sites and will be available later this month.
Earlier this year US and UK regulators urged financial institutions to devise contingency plans for dealing with a possible widespread outbreak of avian flu. Some banks in Europe, such as HSBC, have already been working plans to deal with a possible pandemic.