Building a Strong Foundation for Preparedness

Find out how organizations can mitigate a pandemic’s interruption of operations and disruption to the provision of critical functions.
Building a Strong Foundation for Preparedness

Preparing for a potential infectious disease pandemic from a novel coronavirus is an essential component of a business continuity plan, especially for businesses that provide critical healthcare and infrastructure services. Pandemics can not only interrupt an organization’s operations and compromise long-term viability of an enterprise, but also disrupt the provision of critical functions. Businesses that regularly test and update their pandemic plan can significantly reduce harmful impacts to the business and play a key role in protecting associates’ and customers’ health and safety and limit the negative impact of a pandemic on the community and economy.1

In order to keep associates healthy, everyone must do their part. Hand hygiene with soap and water, washing for 20 seconds, and using an alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) are the most effective, simple and low-cost measures against COVID-19 cross-transmission. By denaturing proteins, alcohol inactivates enveloped viruses, including coronaviruses, and thus ABHR formulations with at least 60% ethanol have been proven effective for hand hygiene.2 Soap contains fat-like substances known as amphiphiles, and the soap molecules “compete” with the lipids in the virus membrane. The chemical bonds holding the virus together aren’t very strong, so competition is enough to break the virus’s coat as well as any grease or dirt they may be clinging to.3

There are no vaccines available and there is little evidence on the effectiveness of potential therapeutic agents. In addition, there is presumably no pre-existing immunity in the population against the new coronavirus and everyone in the population is assumed to be susceptible.4 When a novel virus with pandemic potential emerges, non-pharmaceutical interventions are often the most readily available interventions to help slow transmission of the virus in communities.

Community mitigation is a set of actions that persons and communities can take to help slow the spread of respiratory virus infections. Community mitigation is especially important before a vaccine or drug becomes widely available.5

During this time, it is important to establish clear roles and responsibilities. This can be coordinated through the formation of a crisis management team. This team serves to provide guidance, and support priorities and direction for response and recovery from an enterprise perspective. The establishment of clear roles and communication should take a multi-tiered organizational structure to maximize protection of life and minimize potential interruptions to business continuity. To ensure readiness, the importance of training and tabletop exercises cannot be understated and should be incorporated into overall disaster preparedness efforts.

Mounting a Concerted Defense Against COVID-19

The rapid spread of COVID-19 across the world has exposed major gaps in the abilities of most countries to respond to a virulent new pathogen. Moving forward, as communities work to control the COVID-19 pandemic and plan for future pandemics, a key lesson is that early availability of diagnostic testing is of great value for patient management and public health. Thus, the development, validation, scale-up in manufacture, and distribution of diagnostic tests should be a key priority in early preparation during an emerging infectious disease outbreak.

Aggressive disease containment efforts—including isolation of the source of infection, contact tracing and quarantine, social distancing, and personal protection and prevention—have considerably changed the course of COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, when there was neither effective drug nor vaccine for this new infectious disease with high transmission.6
Xihong Lin
Professor of Biostatistics
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

The examples of Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong in limiting the impact of the sudden acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) demonstrates that it is possible to mount an effective response to an outbreak via major investment in pandemic preparedness.

We also need to understand and define the risk factors for infection, the role of asymptomatic or mild infection and the nature of “super-spreaders” early. We must improve response rates and estimates of death rates by age.6 This will help forward-looking viral pandemic preparedness.

Lastly, businesses that regularly test and update their pandemic plan can significantly reduce harmful impacts to the business, play a key role in protecting associates’ and customers’ health and safety, and limit the negative impact of a pandemic on the community and economy.

Curious about the role clinical laboratories play in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic?

1Koonin, L.M., Novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak: Now is the time to refresh pandemic plans. J Bus Contin Emer Plan, 2020. 13(4): p. 1-15.
2Lotfinejad, N., A. Peters, and D. Pittet, Hand hygiene and the novel coronavirus pandemic: The role of healthcare workers. J Hosp Infect, 2020.
3Thordarson, P. The coronavirus is no match for plain, old soap — here’s the science behind it. 2020 [cited 2020 April 8th]; Available from: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/ deadly-viruses-are-no-match-for-plain-old-soap-heres-the-science-behind-it-2020-03-08.
4Eurosurveillance Editorial, T., Updated rapid risk assessment from ECDC on the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic: increased transmission in the EU/EEA and the UK. Euro Surveill, 2020. 25(10)
5Qualls, N., et al., Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza - United States, 2017. MMWR Recomm Rep, 2017. 66(1): p. 1-34.
6Sweeney, C. Evaluating the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19. 2020 [cited 2020 March 20th]; Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/evaluating-the-impact-of-non-pharmaceutical-interventions-on-covid-19/
7Watts, C.H., P. Vallance, and C.J.M. Whitty, Coronavirus: global solutions to prevent a pandemic. Nature, 2020. 578(7795): p. 363.
Shamiram Feinglass
Shamiram Feinglass
Shamiram R. Feinglass, MD, MPH is the Vice President, Global Government and Medical Affairs at Beckman Coulter. She leads Global Medical, Government, Reimbursement, and Clinical Affairs for Life Sciences and Diagnostics.

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Building a Strong Foundation for Preparedness

Building a Strong Foundation for Preparedness

Find out how organizations can mitigate a pandemic’s interruption of operations and disruption to the provision of critical functions.