Avian flu could cripple telecom services, Internet

Results of a recent influenza pandemic outbreak simulation show that telecommunications systems could be overwhelmed, and the Internet could shut down within two to four days of an outbreak.

The results> of a simulation conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., and the World Economic Forum, found that an outbreak of avian flu would severely challenge the ability of governments and the private sector to manage essential services and communicate crucial information.

Because telecommuting will not be a viable option, public and private organizations will need to establish partnerships that would enable them to coordinate a plan for the use of alternative communications channels, Booz Allen said in a debriefing statement.

'Governments and business organizations need to work together to improve their ability to manage a possible avian flu pandemic,' said Heather Burns, a senior vice president of Booz Allen. 'The time to start preparing is now.'

In the simulation, a hypothetical pandemic originates in Eastern Europe and spreads to Germany, where it rapidly spreads through much of Europe. As a result, everyday life practically grinds to a halt, Booz Allen said in a statement.

Ethan Butterfield is a staff writer for Government Computer News' sister publication, Washington Technology.

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