Pandemic and health event risk management

A decline in the health of people and animal communities can also affect the health of your business.

Preparation and planning can ensure business continuity.

What is a pandemic or health event?

A pandemic is a worldwide outbreak of a disease or illness that spreads quickly and widely among human or animal populations.

Pandemics can pose a global threat bringing difficulties and disruptions to the lives of people and businesses. An epidemic is similar, affecting a locality rather than the whole world.

A health event may be a pandemic, an epidemic, or any other outbreak or instance that affects the health of humans or animals. Each has the potential of disrupting part or all of your business operations.

Risks to your business include:

  • illness and absences within your workforce
  • interruptions to logistics and suppliers
  • financial stress and potential loss of income
  • reduction in customer footfall to your premises
  • inability to trade and periods of lockdown.

Identifying the risk a pandemic or health event could have on your business, and developing a plan to reduce the impact, will help your business recover quickly.

To assist in identifying risks and developing a recovery plan use the resources at writing a business continuity plan.

Thumbnail of business continuity planning Word template

Download the business continuity plan template

This template includes a:

  • risk management plan section
  • business impact analysis section
  • incident response plan section.

Use this page to consider your risk of a health event and complete these sections of the template.

Download the business continuity planning template.

Pandemic illnesses in humans and animals

Pandemics occur when a disease, virus, or new variant of an existing virus spreads worldwide.

An event like this can significantly change the way businesses operate with some impacting specific industries more than others.

For example, swine flu mostly impacts the livestock and food industry.

Potential pandemic human health threats

Key facts:

  • There are 3 main types of the flu virus (A, B, and C).
  • Only type A viruses are known to cause pandemics.

Learn more about influenza.

Key facts:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic began in 2019.
  • A number of variants with different profiles have emerged since.

Find out more about Queensland COVID-19 health alerts.

Key facts:

  • Most swine flu viruses do not infect humans or do so mildly.
  • The H1N1 virus of 2009–2010 was an exception.

Learn more about swine flu and other viruses.

Key facts:

  • Avian flu is caused by a virus that affects wild birds and poultry.
  • There have also been human infections.

Learn more about avian influenza.

Key facts:

  • In the past, outside Africa, animal-to-human transmission of monkeypox has been rare.
  • Generally, outbreaks occur when an infected animal has been imported and then infects local animals.
  • Human-to-human transmission is possible.

Learn more about monkeypox.

Identified a specific health threat?

If you are concerned or suspect that you may have identified a specific health threat, the following phone numbers will provide you with assistance.

For health emergencies, call 000.

For medical advice, call 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84). 
This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and provides health information, advice or referral services.

Potential pandemic livestock, poultry and animal health threats

Key facts:

  • Affects poultry and other birds.
  • Can present with little or no signs of the disease.
  • Can spread rapidly throughout bird populations.
  • Can mutate into highly pathogenic avian flu.

Read about Australian outbreaks of low-pathogen avian flu.

Learn more about low-pathogen avian flu (US Centre for Disease Control).

Key facts:

  • Affects poultry, pigeons and other birds.
  • Viral infection often present in, and spread by, pigeon populations.
  • Affected birds can die within 3 days.
  • Outbreaks are reportable to Biosecurity Queensland.

Learn more about avian paramyxovirus.

Key facts:

  • Affects horses, dogs and humans.
  • Periodically present in flying fox populations.
  • Believed to be able to be transmitted from flying foxes to horses, and from horses to dogs and humans.
  • Mortality rate of infected horses is 80%.

Find out more about Hendra virus.

Key facts:

  • Affects bees.
  • Major threat to honey bees and crop pollination.
  • Not yet established in Australia.
  • High impact on almond, apple, cherry and other crops that rely on pollination, as well as honey bees, if established.

Learn more about the varroa mite.


Biosecurity is one of Australia's most important lines of defence and prevents many serious diseases from infecting plants and animals.

Learn more about biosecurity.

Business continuity planning for a major health event

Use your business continuity plan to consider, manage, and recover from disruptions to your business.

The information below identifies risks to your business, potential actions you could take and resources you can assess for information and assistance.

Risk, potential action and resources

Potential action

  • Instigate remote working/work from home.
  • Improve workplace health and safety procedures.
  • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE), training and equipment.
  • Communicate to your staff and test where relevant.


Potential action

Online ordering/home delivery (and possible zero contact) of products and services.


Websites, social media and digital marketing

Potential actions

Seek assistance from small business or rural financial advisory services.


Potential action

  • Check government websites and contacts regularly.
  • Use kits and websites developed in response to the pandemic.
  • Contact key industry associations for communication kits and advice.
  • Explain to staff and customers:
    • what is happening
    • what is being planned
    • where they can obtain more information
    • what they need to do, and when.
  • communicate with suppliers.


Potential action

Obtain external advice and support services


Mental health and wellbeing resources for businesses

Potential action

  • Communicate with existing suppliers.
  • Seek alternative suppliers.


Managing risk in supply chains

Potential action

Follow government requirements, seek assistance, and restock when able.


National pest and disease outbreaks

Planning and preparation can minimise the impacts of a pandemic.

Learn about major health event preparation for small business.

Pandemics are external factors out of our control but by planning and preparing, your business can reduce the potential impacts.

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