OUTBREAK: The Infections with the Greatest Potential to Damage US Business Operations

Repeatedly and predictably, new infectious disease outbreaks arise that severely harm business operations. Outbreaks can harm business operations when travel restrictions/advisories arise, when economies falter, when supply chains dry up, or when employees and customers actually get sick. Examples from recent memory include the 2009 “Swine flu,” SARS, Ebola that spread from Africa to the US, and of course, COVID-19. COVID-19 laid bare for all to see the business vulnerabilities to infectious diseases. Many CSO’s now feel more anxious about future outbreaks since their businesses are no better prepared for the next major outbreak than they were for COVID-19, yet expectations of the response are higher given they have the COVID experience under their belts. Below is PHC’s list of the top infection outbreaks businesses and CSO’s need to anticipate and prepare for:

1. An influenza pandemic

We’re not talking the seasonal flu that we’ve all become accustomed to. We’re talking about a flu pandemic so bad it cripples daily life and business. This has happened repeatedly throughout history, and it will happen again. Experts assert we are overdue for such a disaster, based on historical patterns. Flu pandemics happen because the virus mutates significantly, and then spreads since we have little immunity to the new version. In 1918, over 50% of all inpatients in some Philadelphia hospitals died EACH NIGHT from flu, for awhile. That virus spread globally within a few months, whereas it takes about 6 months to manufacture influenza vaccines. Our healthcare systems have more infrastructure than they did 100 years ago, but our vulnerability here is huge. Businesses will be no exception. For CSO’s, preparedness and early action are key.

2. The spread of mosquito-borne diseases to new regions

Adequately prepared CSO’s will understand the business risks posed by rapidly emerging mosquito-borne infections in the US, and they will have response plans ready. Dengue fever, known as “breakbone fever” because of the bone-crushing pain this dangerous virus generates, is making a return to the US as its mosquito hosts spread around the country, enabled by climate change.  Malaria, with its legendary fevers and chills, is on the increase here as well. 

Yellow fever, experts warn, is poised to soon return with a vengeance to the US, as its mosquito carriers gain new footholds here. Hallmarks of yellow fever include jaundice from liver failure, life-threatening bleeding, and black vomit. Absent from the US for decades, it caused devastating epidemics during the 1800’s. Preventive vaccination is available in limited quantities but carries some risk, and there are no effective treatments. Given the potential for rapid spread of yellow fever, business impact would be enormous, driven by public anxiety. Fallout could include advice against non-essential travel, stay indoors guidance, event cancellations, and impacted hospitals. CSO’s would benefit from having early intel as the virus appears. They also should have employee communications and contingency plans prepared.

3. A rebound of vaccine preventable illnesses like polio or measles in the US

This is already happening. In 2022, a case of polio was diagnosed in New York. Further analysis showed polio virus was present in over 8% of wastewater samples from this region. These viruses were linked to strains of polio used in vaccines outside the US that are shed by humans after vaccination. In some cases, those strains can trigger paralysis in the unvaccinated. Measles, previously declared “eliminated” in the US, was just diagnosed in Wisconsin and Illinois. There were clusters of this in Minnesota and Ohio last year. These are not diseases to be trifled with, as those alive in the 1930’s-1960’s can attest. They remember how many of their loved ones became ill, died, or suffered permanent complications from them.

 Doctors performed a tracheotomy and put him in an iron lung—a sealed tank used to treat polio patients who had trouble breathing on their own

Polio vaccine has been provided to 92% of 2-year olds in the US. That number is 91% for one of the most contagious diseases known, measles. For tetanus, the number drops to 80%. At the start of kindergarten, nearly 1 in 10 US children remain susceptible to measles. With these numbers, experts expect outbreaks from these dangerous infections. Furthermore, vaccine protection is declining. According to the American Academy of Family Practice, vaccine coverage declined about 1% per year in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

4. Another coronavirus analogous to COVID

Infectious disease experts realize the near-term chances of another coronavirus outbreak with regional or global implications are good. CSO’s need to have their organizations ready in advance. Since 2002, there have been 3 outbreaks of new coronaviruses with significant enterprise impact. These include SARS that affected East Asia and Canada operations, MERS that arises in the middle east, and COVID-19. Given recent history, odds are that other contagious coronaviruses will arise, and businesses will have to deal with the fallout. Prior COVID-19 infection will not provide adequate immunity against them.

5. A widespread outbreak of Ebola or related infection

No disease drives fear as much as Ebola. The images of people bleeding profusely captured in popular media leave a powerful impression. Prior Ebola outbreaks have harmed business operations of those operating in Africa and elsewhere. They have led to travel restrictions affecting multiple continents. Supply chains have been disrupted. Future outbreaks of Ebola or related viruses could become more widespread in Africa than before, with greater effects on major cities and economies. The viruses also have potential to spill over to other continents, with some person-to-person transmission there. Global air travel disruptions would be huge. Travel bans would be implemented. Health systems could be strained. Enterprise impact would be disproportionate to actual disease risk, since Ebola is less contagious than some other viruses (i.e. COVID).

6. An intentional release of a weaponized version of a known germ

In 2001, the Anthrax attacks in the US drove pervasive fear. People were wondering how far the disease would spread and whether they would be exposed next. The US mail system was compromised. Multiple countries have stores of other high-risk germs like plague and smallpox. There are well documented leaks of weaponized germs from research labs and well documented knowledge transfers those labs to bidders elsewhere.  The chances that those with ill intent get their hands on such dangerous germs are very real. Models estimate the economic impact of a bioweapons attack would range from $477M to $26B (in 1997 dollars) per 100,000 exposed persons. Properly prepared CSO’s could provide timely, contextualized information to employees, who will be thirsting for information at such a time.

While we cannot predict which of the above scenarios will happen next, we can say with certainty that some of these events will severely test businesses in the not-distant future. Those that have prepared ahead of time and have objective, actionable intelligence at their fingertips will fare the best. PHC has the expertise and technology to help CSO’s lead these efforts for their enterprises.

Dave Komendat retired as the Vice President and Chief Security Officer for The Boeing Company, a role he held for 14 years of his 36 years within the security profession. Komendat was responsible for the company’s global security and fire protection policy and procedures, site security, executive protection, supply chain and aviation security, structural and aircraft fire protection, government and proprietary information security, classified cyber security, strategic intelligence, international security, business continuity and disaster preparedness, Global Security Operations Center, and security background investigations.

 

Komendat was also the lead Boeing interface for both national and international security policy engagement with numerous government and industry advisory groups. He represented Boeing as past co-chairman and current board member on the Domestic Security Alliance Council, past President of The International Security Management Association and served as a member of the Threats and Information Committee for the Overseas Security Advisory Council.  

 

Komendat is the founder and President of DSKomendat Risk Management Services, he also serves on several company advisory boards and holds board leadership roles with several non-profit organizations whose missions are to protect people globally, including Hostage U.S. and The International Security Foundation. Dave is also a Strategic Engagement Advisor for the Office of Private Sector within the FBI. In 2018, Dave was awarded the Director’s Award for Exceptional Public Service by FBI Director Christopher Wray.

 

Komendat graduated from California State University at Long Beach and also attended and completed the executive development program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Dr. Carter Mecher serves as the Medical Advisor for the Public Health Company. 

 

Prior to joining PHC, Carter served as a Senior Medical Advisor for the Office of Public Health in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In this position, Dr. Mecher played a key role in the COVID-19 outbreak response. 

 

From 2005 to 2011, he served as the Director of Medical Preparedness Policy at the White House Homeland Security Council and National Security Staff. He was a principal author of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan. In this capacity, he helped set policy and devise strategies to mitigate the consequences of a pandemic and promote pandemic preparedness. 

 

Before serving at the White House, Dr. Mecher was the Chief Medical Officer for the Southeast VA Network in Atlanta from 1996 to 2005. In this role he oversaw the healthcare delivery for veterans in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. 

 

Dr. Mecher is a co-author of Lessons from the COVID War, an in-depth examination of the U.S. response to the pandemic. In addition, he is featured in Michael Lewis’ book The Premonition.

 

Dr. Mecher received his medical degree from Chicago Medical School and completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in critical care medicine at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center.

Dr. Joe DeRisi is a Scientific Advisor to PHC. He is one of the early pioneers of DNA microarray technology and whole genome expression profiling; he is nationally recognized in the field of genomic epidemiology for designing a first-of-its-kind initiative for COVID-19. Joe currently serves as Co-President of Chan Zuckerberg BioHub and is a professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at University of California, San Francisco. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Stanford University.

Dr. Sumiko Mekaru is the Vice President of Research and Innovation at The Public Health Company. Dr. Mekaru is an epidemiologist operating at the intersection of traditional epidemiology and technology and leading cross-disciplinary teams to solve challenges in public health. Prior to joining PHC, Dr. Mekaru was a Life Sciences Strategy, Policy, and Operations Expert at Booz Allen Hamilton where she recently led the development of COVID-19 forecasting models for disease transmission, resource utilization, and critical events for the Department of Defense. Dr. Mekaru has also led health technology teams at Epidemico and Boston Children’s Hospital, creating innovative health surveillance tools. She has published extensively on infectious disease outbreak monitoring, modeling, and surveillance. Dr. Mekaru holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Tufts University and a PhD in epidemiology from Boston University.

Justin McIntosh is an experienced professional with 10+ years in management and 8+ years in software engineering. Currently, he is the Vice President of Operations at The Public Health Company. His journey began in college when he co-founded Safe Site, a utility services company, which expanded to operations in three states with over 300 employees. After a successful exit, he founded Docusite, a construction risk management application, diving into software engineering. Despite challenges with Docusite, Justin’s passion for technology led him to various roles before landing at The Public Health Company.

 

In his current role, Justin is tackling the challenging task of improving operations in a remote environment. He is dedicated to his role and is always open to sharing experiences and insights. He is committed to nurturing effective teams, improving operations, and shaping innovative solutions. His focus is on creating a positive, growth-oriented environment and mentoring emerging leaders, reflecting his commitment to collective success.

Lori Sutton is the Vice President of Marketing at The Public Health Company. She is a strategic marketing visionary and global brand leader with 20+ years of progressive experience in B2B/B2C SaaS software marketing in large enterprise and SMB markets. She has expertise in leading strategy development, overhauling brands, launching products and driving growth in target verticals. Prior to joining PHC, Lori was the Vice President of Marketing and Growth at SMS-Magic, where she led the global GTM strategy, orchestrated a brand overhaul, developed new messaging and positioning and launched revenue generating campaigns. Lori held marketing and management roles at Model N, Bullet Point Network, Saba and other SaaS software companies where she focused on marketing strategy, business objectives and analytics to drive revenue.

Lori holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts, a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, an Executive Education in Corporate Strategy at Harvard Business School and continues coursework at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Craig Katsuyama is the Vice President of Administrative Services at PHC. He brings extensive experience building companies from the ground up and was instrumental to the launch of IEX Group in 2012, which challenged the status quo of financial markets and created an entirely new stock exchange that works for all investors. Craig spent the last eight years at IEX where he built and oversaw the accounting and finance teams before transitioning to help establish IEX’s Event Stream business, a data messaging platform that applies IEX’s core technology to areas outside of finance. Craig graduated from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Economics.

Dr. David Fisk is the Chief Medical Officer at The Public Health Company. Prior to joining PHC, Dr. Fisk served as an Infectious Disease Specialist at Sansum Clinic.  He serves as the Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Cottage Health, leading the infection control team at Cottage, working with physicians and hospital leaders on the COVID Incident Command Center to ensure the highest level of preparation and care for patients. In early March 2020, before the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Santa Barbara County, Dr. Fisk advised that the virus was already spreading locally before community members were observing symptoms.

 

Dr. Fisk completed his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and his Internal Medicine residency and Infectious Diseases fellowship at University of Michigan Medical Center. He is board certified in Infectious Diseases and a Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Chris Latko is the Chief Technology Officer at PHC. He joined as a Principal Software Architect where he played a key role in building out the platform. He has over 25 years experience in the technology sector holding positions at companies he started, Fortune 500 companies, and a multitude of startups both in the United States and Japan. He has spent the last decade designing, refining, and reimplementing architectures for hypergrowth startups such as Boxfish, Paxata (acquired by DataRobot), Banjo, and Globality. Chris earned two patents for designing a streaming data ingestion/data normalization platform.

Kendall Burman serves as PHC’s General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining PHC, Burman held leadership roles at Alloy, a data and technology start-up for the progressive political market. Burman previously served as the Deputy General Counsel for Strategic Initiatives at the Department of Commerce and as Associate White House Counsel and Special Assistant to the President in the Obama Administration. She was also a counsel in the cybersecurity and data privacy practice at Mayer Brown and served as Chief Staff Counsel for President Obama’s 2008 campaign.

 

Burman is a graduate of Bowdoin College and received her J.D. from the University of Chicago where she was an editor of the law review. She was also was a fellow at both the New America Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Dr. Charity Dean is the CEO, Founder and Chairman of The Public Health Company, a venture-backed Silicon Valley technology startup. 

 

In August 2020 Dr. Dean founded PHC, envisioning a commercial-grade global biosecurity platform to empower enterprises to manage biorisk at scale. Dr. Dean’s obsession with building a new solution was born out of 24 years in public health and the recognition that Silicon Valley innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning could birth this entirely new capability. Two years later PHC PharosTM is a game-changer for numerous businesses providing real-time, dynamic risk management across their global footprint and assets. 

 

Dr. Dean founded PHC having served as the Assistant Director for the California Department of Public Health where she was part of the executive team under Governor Newsom running the COVID-19 pandemic response. She co-founded and co-chaired California’s COVID-19 Testing Task Force and under her leadership, California went from ranking last in the nation for testing to first in three months. In 2019, Dr. Dean served as Acting State Public Health Officer overseeing 4,300 staff with an annual operating budget of $3.5 billion. 

 

Before her move to statewide office, she served as the Public Health Officer for Santa Barbara County and oversaw a myriad of disease outbreaks and biological threats; she also served as attending physician for TB, HIV, and homeless medicine at the Santa Barbara Health Care Centers. 

 

Dr. Dean was awarded Physician of the Year in 2018 by the Central Coast Medical Association and honored as one of the Women of the Year by the California State Legislature.

 

Dr. Dean is a co-author of Lessons from the COVID War. Her work during the pandemic is the focus of Michael Lewis’ book The Premonition. Dr. Dean has shared her insights about the danger of biological threats and the changes we must make before the next crisis in a number of interviews and podcasts.

 

Dr. Dean holds a Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine from Tulane University and a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Oregon State University.

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