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Australian Businesses Prepare for Outbreak of Bird Flu

Mounting fears of an avian flu outbreak has caused Australian businesses stockpile anti-viral drugs and face masks. //

Pandemic risk committees in compainies such as have regular meetings regularly Public companies such as Bluescope Steel and Telstra while the Commonwealth Bank has appointed a pandemic planning project manager.

Expanded computer networks to enable staff to work from home in the event of an outbreak have been included in the preparations against bird flu.

Fatal cases of bird flu in Asia and Europe have so far been a result of humans catching the disease from sick birds.

However with rising global deaths, crossing 100, fears of the virus passing from human to human, creating a pandemic has to be addressed.

This year the death toll from infection with the H5N1 strain was 55. In 2005 there were 41 deaths reported.

Through its relationship with medical support agency International SOS, BHP Billiton, has stockpiles of anti-viral drugs in regional offices considered at high risk. The Bank of Queensland has proposed to implement basic hygiene education for staff. According to immunologists this measure would help to reduce the spread of disease if a pandemic develops.

Many researchers predict a seasonal pattern of H5N1 infections in line with flu seasons which in Australia extends from mid-June through to the end of August. According to Director of the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Zsuzsanna Jakab, "In birds, it has peaked for now but it is very likely it will come back. We have to get used to a seasonal pattern".

Small businesses, such as the Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island, have stockpiled 1000 masks and have evacuation plans in place if a pandemic strikes.

Businesses have been advised to plan for up to half their staff being absent due to illness, or caring for sick family members or children because of scho
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