SARS-Like Virus, a Smoldering Crisis?

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    Crisis management means staying vigilant against potential threats

    A man in the United Kingdom is the 11th reported patient to be suffering from a new “SARS-like” virus and health officials are trying to determine if the virus is being passed from person to person.

    The virus was first reported in September when a Qatari man and woman from Saudi Arabia were found to be suffering from a new type of coronoavirus.

    Coronaviruses, which include the common cold and SARS, can, at their worst, cause acute pneumonia and kidney failure, the result of inflammation.

    Since the virus was first reported, five of the 11 known patients have died, with the majority needing intensive care.

    This quote, from an ABC News article by Gillian Mohney, explains the facts behind a new type of coronavirus that is causing severe respiratory illness in infected adults. While certainly no cause for panic, the continued spread of what is being called a “SARS-like” virus could be evidence of a smoldering crisis. Just the comparison with SARS, alone, is likely to elicit fear.

    What is a smoldering crisis, you may ask? A smoldering crisis is a situation that starts out small, but contains the potential to grow into a much larger, more devastating issue should it continue on its current course.

    With crises like this one, where no direct action is likely to have an impact one way or another, the smart move is simply to keep it on your radar. Be aware that there is a virus, similar to others, like SARS, that have triggered dangerous outbreaks, and stay up to date on the latest news regarding the situation.

    As with just about every health risk that presents itself these days, the CDC has set up an excellent website filled with information on the virus, and should there be any travel alerts or a spike in risk associated with the virus that page will likely be the first place to have verified information.

    Many crises smolder briefly and simply run out of fuel without ever requiring a response, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to ignore potential risks. Vigilance is an essential cornerstone of crisis management, stay alert, aware, and informed of anything that could impact you and your business.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]