Health Care Emergency - Security Implications
The World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Committee held its second meeting on April 27, 2009 to discuss the Swine Flu outbreak. The Committee considered all data currently available on confirmed outbreaks of A/H1N1 swine influenza in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The Committee also considered reports of possible spread to additional countries. On the advice of the Committee, the WHO Director General raised the level of influenza pandemic alert from the current phase 3 to phase 4 on their pandemic methodology. Phases 1–3 correlatewith preparedness, including capacity development and response planning activities.
It is important to note that Phase 6 means an actual pandemic and wide-spread human infection.The swine flu is an acute and highly contagious respiratory infection in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu so this is a rare occurrence that seems to indicate the virus has mutated. The signs and symptoms of the swine flu are like that of the ordinary seasonal flu - fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and
fatigue. Individuals infected with the virus may be able to infect others beginning
day 1 of the illness even before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after
they initially become ill. Small airborne droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected
person can easily move through the air. Once a person touches respiratory
droplets from an infected person on a surface like a desk, computer keyboard or
mouse and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands
they can become infected.
Following is a list of considerations when dealing with a pandemic of this nature:
• Conference calls and online meetings will be replacing physical gatherings. Security needs to ensure only approved service providers are used and the appropriate
level of security is in place.
• Increases in cleaning staff sometimes become necessary in order to wipe down
commonly touched surfaces which are the main mechanism for spreading the
virus. Security need to ensure that any additional cleaning and janitorial staff
have been properly reviewed and vetted.
• Most organizations will provide pandemic information on their web sites for both
employees and customers. Web sites may see a significant increase in traffic.
Security must ensure proper procedures are followed when additional processing
capacity is added to handle the load. This must include making sure the reserve
capacity equipment has up-to-date software and patches applied.
• Many organizations will encourage employees to work remotely to stem the
spread of the virus. This often causes an increased number of calls to the help
desk and overloading is possible. During unusually high call volumes, call center
staff may have a tendency to short-cut security and authentication processes and
procedures. Security needs to reinforce the need to adhere to established practices
and increase their monitoring.
• Security staff must be integrated into the incident command structure of the organizationthat is responsible for dealing with the pandemic. In addition, security
needs to make sure they are also integrated into the emergency communications
plan as well.
• Security needs a contingency plan for 30–40% employee absences.
Businesses must be prudent. Precautions need to be made now in order to ensure
operational integrity during this health emergency