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CEO Addresses Tennessee Business Leaders About Developing Pandemic and Business Continuity Plans

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Sept. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- George Abercrombie, president and chief executive officer, Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., told more than 100 Tennessee business leaders today at The Economic Club of Memphis that the threat of a pandemic flu presents businesses with challenges unlike those anticipated with traditional emergency preparedness plans.

"While businesses are all too familiar with preparing for potential disasters such as floods or tornadoes," according to Abercrombie, "local businesses also need to look at the special challenges posed by the potential of a public health crisis caused by a global influenza pandemic."

Abercrombie, who shared details of Roche's own plans to safeguard the health of its employees and business infrastructure during a pandemic flu outbreak, says that Tennessee's key industry sectors, including transportation, warehousing, manufacturing, agriculture, food service and hospitality would be among the hardest hit.

In March, Trust for America's Health released a report (funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts as part of the U.S. Pandemic Preparedness Initiative) estimating that Tennessee could lose approximately $14 billion in income as a severe pandemic flu outbreak.

"Influenza pandemics are not static events like a hurricane or tornado, nor are they confined to a specific area. Pandemics come in multiple waves, each one affecting a given area from four to twelve weeks. During the first wave, officials expect 30 percent of people will become ill. Here in Memphis, that's 300,000 residents who will get very sick in a very short period of time, inundating emergency rooms already strained to near capacity[0]."

According to Abercrombie, experts believe that many businesses and organizations would have difficulty maintaining operations as a result of an increased level of absenteeism due to illness, employees caring for the sick and social-distancing policies. In Tennessee alone, there is the potential for approximately 40 percent of employees to be absent from their jobs, according to the Tennessee Department of Health, and this would result in losses of roughly $5.7 billion dollars due to absenteeism and death.

Based on his experience in working with the federal government the past several years on pandemic preparedness, Abercrombie reminded the audience that the government has asked private businesses to share in the responsibility of planning. While the federal government has plans to help slow the spread of the virus among critical populations, such as healthcare workers and emergency personnel, it is up to local communities and businesses to ensure that residents and employees stay healthy and that businesses and local economies remain up and running.

More information on how businesses can organize their own pandemic plans is available online at For more information about the Trust for America's Health, visit

About Roche

Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. (Roche), based in Nutley, N.J., is the U.S. pharmaceuticals headquarters of the Roche Group, one of the world's leading research-oriented healthcare groups with core businesses in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. For more than 100 years in the U.S., Roche has been committed to developing innovative products and services that address prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, thus enhancing people's health and quality of life. An employer of choice, in 2006, Roche was named one of the Top 20 Employers (Science magazine), ranked the No. 1 Company to Sell For (Selling Power), and one of AARP's Top Companies for Older Workers, and in 2005, Roche was named one of Fortune magazine's Best Companies to Work For in America. For additional information about the U.S. pharmaceuticals business, visit our websites: or

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