As the World Health Organization raised its threat alert to a Level 5—just short of a full-blown pandemic—insurers and other health care stakeholders are clamoring for the technology that will enable them to gather and process e-health data and track the proliferation of H1N1, a.k.a Swine Flu, around the world.

The paper-based system in place by the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to track and report potential epidemics seems especially inept to handle the sheer velocity of the flu’s reach, say experts.

The government has stepped up with a national program designed to improve the nation’s capabilities for conducting real-time “biosurveillance,” and enabling health situational awareness through access to existing data from health care organizations across the country. Called BioSense, states used the system to monitor and direct the CDC’s response to the 2008 influenza season. The system uses open-source as its backbone to communicate with state and local public health partners.

And at about the same time as the BioSense launch, the feds launched a similar system called the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System, which offers a generic template for reporting, and uses secure Internet connects to enable the exchange of patient data, including names, test results, diagnoses, etc.

The Swine Flu is estimated to have grave implications for business, notes Towers Perrin risk management specialist Prakash Shimpi. Shimpi told USA Today that employee sickness could hamper worker productivity, eventually increase health insurance costs, create a medical and drug supply shortage, and a general slowdown in the economy as the general public pulls back from its usual shopping and restaurant activities.

“Workers’ Comp Insider” offers the following list of swine flu news, planning and mapping resources:

• - Workplace Planning — HHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer guidelines, including checklists, to assist businesses, industries, and other employers in planning for a pandemic outbreak as well as for other comparable catastrophes

• Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic — a new guide for employers from OSHA

• CDC Swine Influenza — news, updates, and resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

• WHO Swine Influenza — global updates and news from the World Health Organization

• MedlinePlus: Swine Flu — news, articles and links to a variety of resources

Swine Flu and Influenza-related maps:

• Global disease alert map from HealthMap

• H1N1 Swine Flu from Google

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