Scientists Discover New Ebolavirus in Bats in Sierra Leone

Scientists have identified a novel ebolavirus in free-tailed bats in Sierra Leone, providing the strongest evidence to date that bats are the natural hosts of these viruses. The new virus, called Bombali virus, was found in insectivorous bats roosting inside people’s houses. Based on laboratory experiments, researchers from the University of California, Davis, and the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health report that the virus has the potential to infect human cells but stress that it is not known whether it has actually infected people or if it is harmful. The new virus was discovered by UC Davis’ One Health Institute working with Columbia’s Center for Infection and Immunity (CII), the government of Sierra Leone, the University of Makeni and Metabiota as part of the PREDICT Ebola Host Project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). To read more of this article, please click here.

Lessons learned from the Zika outbreak: what do they mean for the next big outbreak?

From Corporate Risk and Insurance Magazine ... The 2016 global outbreak of Zika caught the international public health community and the world by surprise. Zika was previously thought to be a fairly innocuous virus and by the time scientists recognized Zika could have severe outcomes, including birth defects and Guillain-Barre syndrome, the virus had already spread widely in South America. The public reacted by cancelling flights, changing vacation destinations, and avoiding areas with known transmission risk leading to major social and economic disruption. The unexpected spread and newly discovered symptoms associated with Zika demonstrated gaps in the international community’s ability to prepare, respond to, and manage pathogens of epidemic and pandemic potential. Epidemiologists from Metabiota, the provider of epidemic risk modeling, discuss the 2016 Zika outbreak, the decline in cases, and why now is the time for corporations to prepare, assess and manage risk before the next global-impacting outbreak. Jaclyn Guerrero: Hey Patrick, I can’t believe we have already hit summer, also known as mosquito season. Have you seen some of the recent articles on increased transmission of vector-borne diseases? Looks like as we hit the beach this summer we should be grabbing mosquito repellant as well as sunscreen! Patrick Ayscue: Ha! That’s probably not a bad idea. Have you been following the Zika news this year, too? It looks like the numbers are quite a bit lower in the Western hemisphere after all the activity in the last few years. JG: I have seen that but with the decrease in cases, there really hasn’t been much news about current Zika cases. It is hard to imagine that it was just two years ago when people were canceling trips and avoiding areas where there was Zika transmission. Now it seems like Zika is hardly on people’s minds which is alarming because the risk of Zika transmission remains. What are some of the biggest lessons that you took away from the recent outbreak? PA: Two things really stick out to me. One is that we don’t know what or where the next large outbreak will be, and it can come from unexpected places. We have known about Zika since 1947 and had never seen any strong indication it was anything other than a mild febrile illness. We don’t know where the next event will happen, and we should move to prepare for the inevitability of another large outbreak. For more on this interview and article, click here.

Epidemic Insurance for Travel & Tourism

Epidemic risk modelling company Metabiota has announced the development of a new Pathogen Sentiment Index, a tool designed to map public anxieties and behavioural trends that have been driven and altered by outbreaks of infectious diseases. In partnership with reinsurer Munich Re and broker and risk management solutions provider Marsh, the index will be used as the basis of new, ‘cutting-edge’ epidemic insurance solutions for the travel and tourism industry. Hotels, airports, cruise ships and other similar entities will soon have access to business interruption policies based on ‘public fear triggers’, protecting them against potentially catastrophic financial losses that might result from a severe epidemic. “The Zika virus may end up costing Latin America and the Caribbean up to $18 billion,” noted Metabiota in a press release. “And the US economy has already been directly impacted by the spread of the virus.” And while the travel and tourism industry will see major benefits, other businesses will stand to benefit as well. For more on the story, visit this link.

Using Modern Data and Analytics To Confront the Challenge of Epidemic Risk

One hundred years ago, in the spring of 1918, the world was in the early phase of a global disaster that came to be known as the Spanish flu. By the time it ended a year later, the pandemic had killed tens of millions of people. If the 1918 influenza pandemic happened today, the spread of the disease would be much different, impacted by the tripling of the human population, changes in land use, and the massive increase in global connectivity through air travel. But some elements would be the same: Millions would die, millions more would become ill, and the economic devastation to countries, companies, and individuals would be staggering. It has become common to view such events as rare “black swans.” This is far from the case. Over the past five years, the world has been hit with hundreds of notable outbreaks: The West African Ebola outbreak, MERS, Zika, and H7N9 captured global attention. Recognizing that outbreaks that would have once remained localized are now of global concern, countries and international agencies have highlighted the importance of a swift response. This is illustrated in the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there have been 64 cases and 28 deaths reported in three health zones in Equateur Province. Click here to read the full article, which is the first in a four-part series.

Marsh, Munich Re & Metabiota launch parametric pandemic insurance

Global broker and risk consultancy Marsh has launched PathogenRX, an insurance product designed to protect businesses against pandemic risks such as the outbreak of infectious diseases, that utilises a parametric trigger provided by epidemic risk modeling specialists Metabiota and capacity from reinsurance giant Munich Re. The impact of infectious disease outbreaks and other pandemics can be significant for businesses, ranging from direct impacts to extensive business interruption, which makes a parametric triggered event definition and risk transfer solution, backed by global reinsurance capacity a valuable product for corporate risk managers. Of course this also meets the mandate of the major reinsurers such as Munich Re, bringing their reinsurance risk capital direct to the corporate market through such arrangements, while also helping to narrow an evident gap in traditional re/insurance protection. Marsh said the solution can help to minimise financial losses caused by the outbreak of pandemics, citing the PathogenRX product as the “world’s first integrated risk solution for measuring and protecting against economic impact of infectious disease outbreaks.” The insurance product will be offered to U.S. based companies, but can also protect their global operations as well. An attractive prospect for corporate risk managers for whom the impacts of epidemics and pandemics could be significant. “Pandemics and epidemics are not your average risk. They may occur over several months, are often not confined to a specific region, and their unpredictability means they can scale, grow, and become quite costly to a range of businesses from hotels and restaurants to schools and airlines,” explained Martin South, President of Marsh’s US and Canada Division. Marsh highlights that disease outbreaks such as Zika, MERS, and SARS can cause a significant financial impact to businesses and even whole industries that depend on the free movement of people, without fear for safety or health. Citing data from a study, Marsh noted that as many as 90% of Miami, Florida businesses in an area that was badly affected by the 2016 Zika virus outbreak suffered a revenue and profit loss of as much as 40%. Historically, businesses have not been able to measure the potential economic loss from a pandemic or epidemic, or effectively protect their bottom lines using insurance. Something this new product will now help them to do. Working in collaboration, Marsh, Munich Re and Metabiota developed PathogenRX, which they call a fully integrated pandemic risk solution. It uses triggers such as Metabiota’s new Pathogen Sentiment Index, which the epidemic risk specialists launched recently, as reported at the time by our sister site Reinsurance News. This Index offers insight and analytics into infectious disease outbreaks, helping businesses to model their potential financial exposure to an outbreak and protect against this risk using insurance policy underwritten by Munich Re. These policies can be highly customised, so as to tailor coverage for specific expenses, geographies, types of disease, or portions of a calendar year, Marsh explained. “Metabiota’s mission is to make the world more resilient to epidemics and to accomplish this means working with insurance industry leaders, like Marsh and Munich Re, to develop new offerings to minimize the economic repercussions that can result from infectious diseases,” Bill Rossi, CEO of Metabiota said. “Our Pathogen Sentiment Index combines our team’s in-depth scientific knowledge with a novel way to measure the potential impact to consumer travel and spending as a result of an outbreak and trigger the necessary resources to offset it.” “With PathogenRX, we are pushing the boundaries of insurability. Businesses now can better prepare for the potential of an epidemic or pandemic with a highly customizable risk modelling and transfer solution,” added Gunther Kraut, Head of Epidemic Risk Solutions at Munich Re. “This joint effort is an important part in our continued strategic push for innovation. It will pave a new frontier for the insurance industry by helping businesses become more resolute to the evolving health threats facing the world.” Christian Ryan, US Hospitality, Sports and Entertainment Leader at Marsh and based in Dallas, explained to Artemis that the use of parametric triggers will mean payouts can be determined much more quickly, while coverage can be tailored to the needs of the insured. The global nature of the product means that international businesses, such as in the hospitality sector, can attain coverage that could provide rapid pay outs to help their finances when business interruption, or expense due to the outbreak of diseases occur. The product is another good example of parametric triggers enabling gaps in insurance protection to be filled efficiently, while pay outs can be disbursed more rapidly as well. The product will use the parametric factors for definition of an event, but unless a cedent has an identifiable financial loss from the event a payout wouldn’t be made, we understand. Hence the Metabiota index is an element of the overall payout trigger, but vital for identifying when an event qualifies under the terms of the insurance arrangement. To visit the original article on Artemis, please click here.

Marsh launches product to insure against pandemics

Global insurance broker Marsh has announced the launch of PathogenRX, a new product to protect US-based businesses and their global operations affected by an infectious disease outbreak. “Pandemics and epidemics are not your average risk,” said Martin South, president of Marsh’s US and Canada Division. “They may occur over several months, are often not confined to a specific region, and their unpredictability means they can scale, grow, and become quite costly to a range of businesses from hotels and restaurants to schools and airlines.” Infectious diseases can have drastic impacts on industries that depend on people moving freely without fear of their safety or health, Marsh said. A recent study found that, in an area of Miami especially hard-hit by the 2016 Zika virus outbreak, 90% of businesses saw revenue and profit losses of up to 40%. But businesses had no way to measure or protect against potential losses from an epidemic, Marsh said. To solve that problem, Marsh teamed up with reinsurer Munich Re and epidemic risk modeler Metabiota to create PathogenRX. The product uses triggers like Metabiota’s Pathogen Sentiment Index, which provides analytics into disease outbreaks, to allow businesses to more confidently project and protect against potential losses. The policy can be tailored to provide coverage for specific expenses, geographies, types of disease and times of year, Marsh said. “Metabiota’s mission is to make the world more resilient to epidemics, and to accomplish this means working with insurance industry leaders, like Marsh and Munich Re, to develop new offerings to minimize the economic repercussions that can result from infectious diseases,” said Bill Rossi, CEO of Metabiota. “With PathogenRX, we are pushing the boundaries of insurability,” said Gunther Kraut, head of epidemic risk solutions at Munich Re. “Businesses can now better prepare for the potential of an epidemic or pandemic with a highly customizable risk modeling and transfer solution. This joint effort is an important part in our continued strategic push for innovation. It will pave a new frontier for the insurance industry by helping businesses become more resolute to the evolving health threats facing the world.” To visit the full article by Insurance Business America, please visit this link.

Amazon Web Services Partner Story: Metabiota

Using Data to Confront Risks and Change Lives The 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic stands as one of the deadliest flu pandemics in human history, killing 50 million and infecting an estimated 500 million worldwide. Many experts believe it’s not a question of if, but when, an epidemic of even greater magnitude will occur. The flu is but one example of an infectious disease with the power to cause catastrophic human and economic losses across a global population. While it may be impossible to prevent future epidemics, analyzing trends and events of the past while controlling for the conditions of the present can assist in modeling and mitigration of risk. Metabiota sits at the intersection of this combination of epidemiology and data science. The company helps its clients conduct risk analysis and assess the probability of human and financial losses caused by a potential epidemic through its comprehensive infectious disease platform. “You can’t necessarily eliminate pandemics or epidemics, but you can minimize their impact,” says Mike Gahan, senior data scientist at Metabiota. Metabiota uses hundreds of different data sources to build a range of models that run tens of millions of plausible event simulations. Each simulation represents a scientifically plausible, hypothetical scenario that accounts for variables that can affect the severity of epidemics. “With each client, our goal is to put ourselves in the client's shoes and think about what they’re trying to accomplish,” says Cathine Lam, data scientist at Metabiota. “For example, how are governments hoping to use insights from our data to understand and mitigate risk to better address citizens’ needs in the face of an epidemic? How are insurance companies looking to leverage insights from our data to design a comprehensive insurance policy that mitigates economic losses and covers appropriate pathogens?”   For more on this story, visit here.

Metabiota unveils Pathogen Sentiment Index & agreement with Munich Re, Marsh

Epidemic risk modeller Metabiota has announced details of its Pathogen Sentiment Index, a tool that enables the estimation of public fear and behavioural change as a result of infectious disease outbreaks, and which is to be used to develop epidemic insurance solutions through an exclusive agreement with reinsurer Munich Re and broker Marsh. In August last year, Metabiota announced the launch of its commercial risk modelling platform and preparedness index for epidemic risks, as well as the signing of a strategic agreement with reinsurance giant Munich Re. Now, the epidemic risk modeller has revealed details of its Pathogen Sentiment Index, which will be used as the basis for innovative epidemic insurance solutions to be developed and brought to the marketplace by Munich Re and insurance and reinsurance broker, Marsh, under an exclusive agreement with the pair. Bill Rossi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Metabiota, said: “Infectious disease outbreaks can inflict enormous social and economic disruption and public fear and panic can only magnify those disruptions. Until now, that risk has been difficult to measure. By providing a comprehensive and objective methodology for quantifying the potential ripple effect of epidemic risk, we’re able to provide the insurance industry with the tools to underwrite risk and deliver polices to protect countries and corporations from financial blowback.” To read more of this article, click here.

Metabiota’s Pathogen Sentiment Index to Fuel Innovative Epidemic Insurance Offering for Travel & Tourism Industry

Today, Metabiota, the pioneer in epidemic risk modeling, unveiled details of its Pathogen Sentiment Index, a tool for estimating public fear and behavioral change driven by infectious disease outbreaks. The Index integrates Metabiota’s deep scientific expertise with extensive analytics into historical infectious disease outbreaks with consumer sentiment scoring for each pathogen. Under an exclusive agreement with Munich Re, a leading global reinsurance company, and Marsh, a global leader in insurance broking and innovative risk management solutions, Metabiota’s Index will be the basis for cutting-edge epidemic insurance solutions to be developed and brought to market by the companies. For the first time, travel and tourism businesses like hotels, airports, cruise ships and theme parks will be able to access a public fear trigger-based business interruption policy designed to protect against a significant financial loss resulting from an epidemic. To read more, visit this link.

Africa: Ebola, Other Diseases Piloted in New Insurance Programme

Johannesburg — The African Risk Capacity (ARC), an agency of the African Union, is developing an insurance product to facilitate rapid, first-line financial responses to disease outbreaks. In the pilot phase, Ebola, Marburg, Meningitis, and Lassa Fever will be covered. Over 30 countries across Africa are at risk of an outbreak of one or more of these four epidemic-prone diseases. The Ministries of Health in Guinea and Uganda, the two countries implementing ARC's Outbreak and Epidemic (O&E) Pilot Programme, selected these four pathogens due to the history-based potential for outbreaks and accompanying devastating impact on populations and economies. O&E builds on ARC's successes in implementing climate disaster risk financing programmes in Africa. It is designed as an integrated system to enable governments to respond early and effectively to public health emergencies. The programme will work with countries to determine their epidemic risks and select pathogens to be covered, optimize early warning systems, create pre-established contingency plans for rapid response, and provide access to swift disbursement of financing through parametric insurance. To read more about this program and Metabiota's involvement, click here.