Parima urges risk managers to relook at their crisis communication and business resilience plans in relation to the virus

Norovirus outbreak strikes UK

Asia-Pacific risk managers should use the outbreak of Zika virus as an opportunity to demonstrate their value in dealing with a crisis. This was the advice of Pan Asia Risk and Insurance Management Association (Parima) general secretary Steve Tunstall in a conference call about the virus for risk professionals in Asia.

Tunstall urged risk managers to relook at their crisis communication and business resilience plans in relation to the virus, which is currently focused within the Americas.

“This is really an opportunity for the risk manager both to raise [their] profile in the organisation and to genuinely show how they bring value to the organisation itself,” Tunstall said.

The Zika virus has been declared a “public health emergency of international concern” by the World Health Organisation owing to the growing body of evidence that links Zika to a recent cluster of birth defects, including microcephaly – a condition where babies are born with smaller than normal heads – and other neurological disorders.

The virus has been detected in 52 countries, with 31 of these within the Americas.

In Asia, Thailand is the only country where the virus is considered an ongoing risk with several cases identified, while Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia have reported ‘indirect evidence’ of Zika virus transmission.

With the virus currently centralised in the Americas, Tunstall recommended Asia-based risk managers focus on improving communication protocols and business resilience activities.

“It’s very important that risk managers work with their internal teams to see how you can allay any unnecessary fears within the organisation,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for the risk manager to team up with other teams in the organisation and make sure there’s a consistent and sensible approach to these sorts of issues.

“Risk managers can really add some value by making sure that there’s not an alarmist response in the organisation and not a knee-jerk response for communication,” he said.

“We want to give our employees the right information; we don’t want our people to be unnecessarily scared, but we also want them to be prepared.”

Tunstall said Zika was also an opportunity to get business resilience back on the boardroom agenda.

“So what are we doing in our own organisation to be prepared not only for Zika but for any other of these viruses that come up? How are we thinking about business continuity planning and how are we thinking about [the] speed of communication in the event that something like [Zika] becomes a more real pressing issue here in Asia?” he said.


What is Zika virus?

  • Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne illness, transmitted through the Aedes mosquito
  • Common symptoms include: fever, rash, muscle and joint paint, conjunctivitis, headache. Only one in five people will get symptoms. Symptoms of the Zika virus are similar to other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria and most people recover in about a week without any other complications.
  • Agencies investigating Zika are finding increasing evidence that links the virus and babies born with auto-immune diseases and microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected
  • The disease was first discovered in Africa in 1947
  • There is no specific treatment available, and no vaccines are available.