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Former Sec Thompson: "Not If But When" For Pandemic

Avian or bird flu. Just because it hasn't been topping headlines doesn't mean the threat's disappeared. But how prepared are U.S. businesses for a pandemic? On CNBC’s “Morning Call,” Tommy Thompson--former Secretary of Health and Human Resources--presented the results of a new Deloitte and Touche survey.

Thompson (who is now Chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions) said, “There have been 10 pandemics in the past 300 years – it’s not if… it’s when. The bird flu might never hit – but there will be a pandemic. Any preparation a company does now puts them in good stead for when a pandemic hits.”

"In the face of a pandemic flu about 1/3 of employees might have to stay home. That could be your CEO."

"There are 4 things to consider 1) You’ve go to figure out what you want to accomplish – 2) how are you going to communicate with your employees and 3) how are you going to communicate with your employees and 4) how are you going to be able to keep inventories up."

Here are additional results from the Deloitte & Touche survey of businesses:

- 66 percent of respondents said their company had not adequately planned to protect itself from a pandemic flu outbreak, while 14 percent said they had adequately planned and 20 percent were undecided.

- 58 percent said they are not confident their company is prepared to manage a pandemic flu outbreak, while 18 percent said they are confident they are prepared and 24 percent were undecided.

- 73 percent said their company could use help understanding what it should do to plan for a pandemic flu outbreak, while 14 percent said they did not need help and 13 percent were undecided.

- 39 percent believed there wasn’t much a company could do to prepare itself for a pandemic flu outbreak, while 41 percent disagreed with that statement and 20 percent were undecided.

FYI: Thompson is apparently considering running for U.S. president in 2008. He said he started an exploratory committee to look into running--and says he plans to spend time in Iowa.

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  • Sue Herera is a founding member of CNBC, helping to launch the network in 1989. She is co-anchor of "Power Lunch."

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