January 10th, 2021


Clearing out old email: pandemics

I have had a habit of not deleting old emails, which has had me run into trouble more than once.

I have decided it's an easy project for me to work on, because I either keep or delete something. I keep all the stuff from actual people, or I try. I don't like losing contacts.... even though many of these people are no longer at the email addresses I have. And, of course, some of the people are dead.

That said, I've started on the oldest emails in this particular account, and it goes back to at least 2006. Maybe 2005.

I decided to work on the actuarial emails first. I was going through deleting through all my old receipts from actuarial exams, SOA newsletters, etc., but I do look at the emails before I delete them.

I have all these announcements for the Society of Actuaries... dealing with pandemics. From May 2006. I'm going to copy some text from the email:


The SOA's new multi-faceted pandemic initiative is actively providing resources to address the potential consequences of an avian influenza pandemic. Because actuarial science identifies and quantifies risks associated with extreme events, actuaries are being looked upon to provide guidance on mitigating the risks of widespread illness. The SOA's multi-part effort includes an expert round table and a commissioned study along with other mechanisms that underpin the important pandemic initiative. This plethora of information can be accessed via the Web at:

Obviously, that link doesn't work anymore (and there are other articles and links listed below that...). Here's an archived page.

In May 2006, this was going on: H5N1 pandemic -- the case fatality rate for H5N1 was/is pretty bad.

The risk from pandemics was, of course, known among actuaries (not that anybody asks us about anything).

Some of the pandemic-related stuff from before that May 2006 email:

Influenza Pandemics: Are We Ready for the Next One? What Actuaries Can Learn From 1918 By Max J. Rudolph, July 2004, Risk Management newsletter

Specific industries that featured overcrowding and moist conditions were particularly susceptible. In 1918 Met Life reported that 6.21 percent of all insured coal miners and 3.26 percent of all insured industrial workers died. Overall estimates of worldwide deaths have ranged from 20-100 million, with the higher numbers now considered more credible. The high end of the range translates into 5 percent of the world’s population dead from influenza within about three months. Based on population increases, today as many as 350 million would die.
In the United States, the consensus is that 25 percent of the population became infected with influenza and, of these, 2.5 percent died. This resulted in .06 percent of the population dying from the virus (.25 * .025 = .00625). This left 600,000 Americans dead and reduced the expected lifetime (taking the probability of surviving 1918 for each attained age and multiplying the results) from 51 to 39. More Americans died from the 1918 influenza pandemic than from all 20th century combat deaths. Up to 10 percent of the world’s young adults died.

June 2006: SOA - Influenza Pandemic: The Impact on an Insured Lives Life Insurance Portfolio
by Dr. Andrea Stracke and Dr. Winfried Heinen

Flu pandemics, i.e., worldwide flu epidemics, occur at more or less regular intervals. There were three pandemics in the 20th century: the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918/19, which caused 50 million deaths around the world (some sources even put the total up to 100 million), the Asian Flu pandemic in 1957/58, and the Hong Kong Flu pandemic in 1968/69, which resulted in around one million deaths each worldwide. The Spanish Flu alone killed approximately 4 percent of the global population at that time. It is therefore apparent that flu pandemics represent a serious threat to the population. Accordingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) called on member nations some time ago to develop plans for dealing with a pandemic.

Regarding the current bird flu, it is claimed that around 50 percent of all cases reported to date have been fatal. This mortality rate is several times higher than the rate for the Spanish Flu.
It should be noted that the SARS virus, which is transmittable between humans, had a case fatality rate of 9.6 percent (cf. WHO [10]).

There were two papers the SOA commissioned that came out in 2007:
Potential Impact of Pandemic Influenza on the U.S. Life Insurance Industry by Jim Toole, May 2007

Study of the Effect of a Flu Pandemic on Insured Mortality Using the Delphi Method in May 2007

It is amusing to me, as I go through these old emails, finding old things the SOA tried out and obviously did not pan out.  Lots of websites they tried out and abandoned.  I was often frustrated in the mid-2000s by how much their main website sucked, but they've gotten a lot of those issues taken care of now.