This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

May 6, 2009

Swine Flu, the Global Threat

Sometime in the early 1990s, Joyce attended a briefing delivered by the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC). The speaker talked about the future of infectious disease and painted a somewhat frightening picture. He talked about the mobility of our society and the potential for pandemics, based on the already-identified viruses. Between Mad Cow Disease, Bird Flu, and now Swine Flu, some of those forecasts have become a disturbing reality.

Until recently, the swine flu in humans was not common. What we are apparently dealing with now is a new and more virulent strain of disease called "influenza A virus subtype H1N1". This new, dangerous illness is a mixture of the genetic material of four similar influenza viruses: one human, one avian, and two swine. This new strain seemingly passes with ease from human to human. The symptoms of 2009 H1N1 strain, comparable to normal influenza, are fever, coughing, and headache.

The near-term future will bring an announcement that the disease has reached global pandemic proportions. This situation will affect many areas of our lives at a time when we can ill afford another blow to our ability to conduct business. It will negatively affect travel and hospitality, reduce attendance at conferences, and disrupt business in general.

Manufacturers of disinfectants, even disinfectant soaps, will have difficulty keeping up with the demand for their products, as people scramble to protect themselves and their families. Cleaning services will have an excellent year, as will Roche Holding AG, the manufacturers of Tamiflu, an antiviral drug that appears to reduce the virulence of the H1N1 infection. Once the vaccine is developed, other pharmaceutical companies will spring into action to manufacture large quantities of the shots for inoculation.

Moreover, keeping everybody safe will add a tremendous amount of time to peoples' work schedules, especially those of childcare workers and teachers. The focus on personal hygiene will be a significant trend. Wise employers will encourage frequent hand-washing, posting signs to reinforce media's messages. The emergence of swine flu is a wildcard that will affect all of us around the world and add to the stress people are already experiencing.

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