5 Ways to Improve Customer Experience

first_imgTuesday, October 2 was Customer Experience Day, an industry-wide celebration for professionals and companies that create great customer experiences. Dell Technologies participates every year, recognizing our team members and the work they do to put the transformative power of technology into your businesses, helping you achieve your desired outcomes and delight your own customers.CX Day gave me an opportunity to reflect on the progress we’ve made in delivering an exceptional customer experience across Dell. And while I am excited about how much we have achieved in a short time, there is still opportunity for us to improve. Having the chance to speak directly with a customer that has been with Dell for almost two decades put a lot of our work in perspective and was a tangible example of how understanding the outcomes a customer is focused on helps us better meet their needs, act as a trusted advisor, and deliver an experience that earns their loyalty and trust. Our customers and partners are the driving force behind everything we do, and we define our success through your success.We truly believe that improving customer relationships can have a major impact on your business results. Here are five tips from the Dell Technologies playbook to consider as you look for ways to develop relationships with your own customers.Execute on the basicsYou don’t get permission to play in the higher-level relationship areas with customers if you don’t get the fundamentals right. No matter how much progress you make, you’re never going to be perfect and there will be times when you mess up. It’s all about how you take accountability and respond.At Dell Technologies we took a closer look how we approach and resolve customer escalations. What we found was that when we take full accountability and make things right, we elevate our relationship with the customer to a whole new level. I can’t overemphasize how important our response is in those situations.Honor customer loyalty Customers are your lifeline, you must be relentless in their pursuit for success and honor their partnership and loyalty. Recently through data analytics, we identified customers that consistently honor us with their business and make up a substantial portion of our business. To show our appreciation, we develop differentiated programs delivering increased value for our customers. Additionally, we offer an exclusive opportunity to connect select customers with Dell executives and their own industry peers providing additional insights into operations, products, solutions, industry experts and the marketplace.That said, creating such a formal program may not be the right fit for your business. If so, there are easier ways to approach this. Pick up the phone, commit to talking to a certain number of customers each week and be the feedback loop to your team members. Your customers will appreciate the personal engagement and follow-up.Lead with insightsAccording to Gartner, customer analytics is considered the most critical technology investment for CX improvement projects. We couldn’t agree more, as leading with insights allows us to be more predictive and proactive. Additionally, we also agree that the ROI for CX is a critical measurement, and that “realized ROI ranges from benefits for customers (such as increased customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy) to benefits for the organization (such as increased revenue, customer lifetime value, customer retention and profitability).”We recently took a set of pilot accounts and tested certain data points to score customer health, using outlier detection, clustering and other machine learning techniques to identify signs of early distress. We reached out to validate with account teams and customers, and approached a 90 percent success rate within a few months!Innovation with purpose In addition to creating brand loyalty through innovative products and solutions, customers also expect a purpose-driven relationship. A new study by Cone Communications revealed that 87 percent of consumers said they’d purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.Since Michael founded the company 34 years ago, Dell’s purpose has always been to develop technology that drives human progress. To do so, we focus on three main areas to drive positive change and contribute to a more sustainable future, including:Sustainability – how we build sustainability into everything we do, from our supply chain to product development.Purpose-driven giving – how we apply our solutions, investments and time to drive human progress at scale.The future workforce – how we ready the next generation as well as today’s workforce to thrive in an all-digital world.Is your business aligned to a bigger purpose beyond just selling products? If not, I highly recommend reading Start with Why, an inspiring book that explores why some people and businesses are more innovative, influential and profitable than others.Get in the trenches and networkSome of the best relationships and business deals happen when you least expect it. Participating in networking events that allow for informal conversations has been a key factor in my personal success and also grounds me to better understand what a customer needs and how we at Dell Technologies can support them.Two years ago at the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network’s annual summit in San Francisco, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, founder and CEO of Amika Mobile, a software platform that specializes in saving lives via an integrated emergency critical communication and control server. The conversation eventually led to a recently announced OEM partnership between Amika Mobile and Dell EMC. We are thrilled about this partnership that embodies Dell’s purpose – driving human progress through technology.I also believe that internal networking within your own company is invaluable. Connecting with team members can help you align on common customer-driven objectives that can unify your organization on shared success goals, focused on our customers and partners. So much of what we do is dependent on highly valued, collaborative relationships internally to better serve our customers, partners and team members. Working with and through other organizations unfied on a single customer journey provides a common focus and a clear definition of success, ultimately through the eyes of our customers.ConclusionThese tips help guide me as I interact with and advocate for our own customers, partners and team members. And while there’s not a one-size-fits-all formula for strengthening individual customer relationships, I hope that they provide you with some inspiration as you work to meet your own business goals. Every customer has unique objectives and hurdles, but I’m a firm believer that by grounding interactions with a human connection, data that informs and a bigger purpose is critical to creating an emotional connection that drives the best possible results.last_img read more

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New London Beautiful Star Cassidy Janson Compares Carole King to Elphaba & More

first_img View Comments English actress-singer Cassidy Janson has appeared in many American shows in and around London, from blockbusters like Wicked to more intimate productions like Dessa Rose, opposite The Color Purple’s Cynthia Erivo, and alongside Neil Patrick Harris in tick, tick…BOOM! She recently took over from Olivier Award winner Katie Brayben as Carole King in Beautiful at the Aldwych Theatre. Broadway.com caught up with the performer to talk dressing room handovers, theatrical uplift and making her New York stage debut in January.How is starring in Beautiful going?It’s been amazing, absolutely wonderful. Everyone loves the show and that makes all our jobs easier because everyone is watching everyone else’s back. Every night, I literally look up to the sky and say thank you because this has been such a wonderful part to play.Did you see yourself playing Carole King before the prospect came your way?I’d been to see the show twice to see Katie [Brayben, the London originator of the role}, who’s a very good friend and afterwards we were having drinks and she tapped me on the hand and said, “Look, I’m going to be leaving—make sure you go up for the role.”It’s almost as if you were anointed!I guess it is! Talking with Katie about it made me feel as if I could do the show—as if it were entirely within my skill set. Before that, I hadn’t really considered it and I doubt I would be doing the role if she hadn’t suggested it.What was your first awareness of Carole King?I grew up in north London knowing and loving Carole’s music, and I had been singing “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” as an audition song for the last decade. But like so many, I hadn’t been aware of the huge body of work that Carole wrote but gave to others to sing. When I realized the extent of that, I thought, “Oh my goodness, this woman is a phenomenon!”Have you experienced the “Carole moment,” where the subject of the show appears onstage at the curtain call to take a bow?No, not like Katie did on her opening night! I don’t know how I would react were that to happen. I like to think I would handle myself with dignity but who knows how I would be in the presence of a living legend?The role has certain challenges, not to mention that you pick up Carole’s life story from when she was a teenager.Yes. We begin at Carnegie Hall but then go back chronologically to when Carole was 16 and tell the story going forward to her late-20s. I’ve got four different wigs and an insane amount of costumes—nine quick changes in act one alone!How do you approach playing a teen when you are in your 30s?Luckily, I’ve got a very cute-looking wig and very young-looking clothes and the dialogue is written for a 16-year-old, so you just have to act it and be honest and that does it for you. There’s nothing worse than someone who isn’t 16 trying to play a 16-year-old—that’s painful. But the dialogue tells you where the character is at, so you just have to go with the truth of that.Did Katie leave any welcome gifts for you in the dressing room?She did! I arrived on the Monday and there was a box with a thermos mug and some Throat Coat tea and also some Sanderson’s mixture, which you gargle with—all very good to have!What is Beautiful like for you, as a nightly sing?What’s lovely is that this very much suits my voice naturally, and how Carole sang isn’t the same as musical theater singing, so you don’t have any sustained high-belt notes: there’s nothing you have to build your stamina up to, so there isn’t the same pressure which is nice when you’re singing 17 songs each show.Very different, then, from playing Elphaba in Wicked!There’s certainly no b-flat, or whatever, that I have to hold for eight bars! But in Beautiful, I’ve got plenty of other things that I’m worrying about. I’d only run the show twice before I did my first performance so I was really worried that the quick changes might mess me up; when they didn’t, that took a lot of my angst away!You’ve done any number of musicals in London that began in New York; do you travel across the pond to check shows out?Absolutely. I think most London-based actors look to see what’s happening in New York. I do go over for a theater blitz to see as many shows as I can and to see what may or may not be right for me: London and New York are very much sister cities.Have you ever performed in New York?I will as of January! I’m taking two weeks off from Beautiful to tour in the States with a British swing band called The Jive Aces. We’re playing the Metropolitan Room [in NYC] on January 17. I’ve been touring with this band now on and off for 18 months and these guys are like my big brothers. I had no idea how big swing dances were until I started gigging with them: people come dressed in vintage clothes!That sounds huge fun—and you can catch your co-star from London’s Dessa Rose, Cynthia Erivo, in her Broadway debut in The Color Purple.Of course, yes, and she’s opening this week, isn’t she? My God, Cynthia is incredible. I know when I see her I will be a blubbering mess.last_img read more

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Summer crops

first_imgBy Brad HaireUniversity of GeorgiaAfter rough spring weather, the heat is on. And some crops are doing better than others in Georgia fields, where farmers are finishing up a disappointing wheat harvest and hoping the rain hasn’t stopped for the year, say University of Georgia crop experts.Going into harvest a month ago, Georgia’s winter wheat crop was in good shape, said Dewey Lee, UGA Cooperative Extension small grains expert. But heavy springtime rain delayed harvest. Now, the quality of the 240,000 acres of wheat to be harvested is poor due to sprouting in the field, something farmers don’t want to happen.“Soft red winter wheat is notorious for sprouting under rainy conditions,” he said. “Once soft wheat dries in the field to a harvestable condition, if the crop experiences prolonged rainy conditions, the seed will sprout. … This crop was pretty much disastrous. We had the opportunity to obtain good yields (50 bushels per acre) but have fallen below that.”Right now, farmers are getting $3.50 to $4 per bushel for damaged, poor-quality wheat and $4 to $5 for good-quality wheat, said Nathan Smith, a UGA Extension farm economist. Farmers need at least $4 per bushel to break even this year.“It’s a challenge to grow wheat in Georgia and get consistent returns each year,” Smith said. “This was just one of those years where neither prices nor the yields were there.”Georgia is expected to produce 11.5 million bushels of wheat this year, according to the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service. This is half of last year’s total production.Other Georgia crops face problems, too.Georgia’s 350,000 acres of corn is at a stage where it needs at least a third of an inch of water each day, Lee said. Most Georgia soil holds an inch of water for only four days. After that time, it is dry.Right now, corn planted in irrigated fields is in good condition. But every day without rainfall now hurts plants not able to get irrigation, he said.“We had healthy plants going into this hot weather. But the heat is having a negative impact,” Lee said. “For farmers lucky enough to get afternoon thunderstorms, it’ll be a yield saver this time of year.”During normal spring, Georgia farmers start planting peanuts in late April and finish in 40 days. This year, due to crazy springtime weather, it took 75 days to complete planting for the state’s expected 500,000 acres, said John Beasley, UGA Extension peanut expert.“The word I have for this planting season is ‘discombobulated,’” said Beasley. “And it was as discombobulated as I have ever seen.” Now that planting is over and most plants are coming up, the crop is looking OK, he said, considering. But 50 percent of the crop was planted in June. Typically, only 10 percent is planted in this month. This means peanut harvest will push into mid October. Normal nighttime temperatures then will be in the lower 60s, a range peanuts can tolerate. If temperatures drop any lower, maturity and yields will be hurt.According to a weekly crop report from GASS, 70 percent of Georgia’s tobacco crop is in fair to good condition. The remaining 30 percent is in poor to very poor condition. Most of the state’s soybean and cotton plants are in good to fair condition for this time of year.last_img read more

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FERC orders construction halt at Atlantic Coast Pipeline

first_imgFERC orders construction halt at Atlantic Coast Pipeline FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享WV Public Broadcasting:Federal regulators halted all construction of the 604-mile, interstate Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) following a federal court’s ruling this week that invalidated two major federal permits. The Friday evening decision comes just a week after regulators issued a similar stop work order for another major interstate natural gas project, the Mountain Valley Pipeline.On Aug. 6, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the National Park Service (NPS) acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner when it granted the ACP pipeline a right-of-way permit to cross under the Blue Ridge Parkway. The court also said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not do enough analysis to ensure the protections of five endangered or threatened species and vacated the pipeline’s “Incidental Take Permit.”In a letter to pipeline officials, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said without these permits, construction of the ACP could not continue.“In light of this development, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic) has not obtained the rights-of-way and temporary use permits from the NPS needed for ACP to cross certain federally owned lands and lacks an Incidental Take Statement for the project,” the letter states.The move comes a week after FERC issued a stop work order for the 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline. In that case, the 4th Circuit invalidated two federal permits authorizing construction inside Jefferson National Forest because the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service did not conduct enough environmental analysis. FERC said until those approvals are re-issued, construction must stop.In the letter sent to ACP officials, the agency noted the Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service would most likely issue new permits, but FERC could not predict when that may happen. The ACP is a project of Dominion Energy. The $5.5 billion pipeline would transport natural gas from central West Virginia to the eastern portions of Virginia and North Carolina.More: Feds halt construction of Atlantic Coast Pipelinelast_img read more

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Outdoor Updates: Dolphins in the Potomac River

first_imgShould the rule change go into effect, off-road vehicles will be allowed in areas such as Canyonlands’ Maze District and Arches’ Klondike Buffs—as long as ATV operators keep their vehicles on roads that are open to cars and trucks. “This alignment with state law isn’t carte blanche to take their ATVs off road,” agency spokesperson Vanessa Lacayo told The Salt Lake Tribune. “If people [drive] off road, they will be cited. Protection of these resources is paramount.” All-female races can help women runners feel comfortable and supported. If you’re a woman who has wanted to try an all-woman race, lace up your shoes and pound the pavement at the Alpharetta Women’s Half Marathon and 5K Race. The race will be held on Sunday, November 3 in Alpharetta, Georgia and begins at 7 a.m. at Avalon, the city’s retail district. The race then winds throughout the city of Alpharetta, including along a few miles of the scenic Big Creek Greenway. Top female finishers in the half marathon will take home a prize purse and all participants will receive a t-shirt, finisher medal, and complimentary food and refreshments after the event. While it’s still questionable whether the Potomac is safe for humans, one species of animal is thriving in the river waters: dolphins. In 2015, scientists counted nearly 200 bottlenose dolphins in a section of the river off of Virginia’s Northern Neck. This year, over 1,000 have been identified in the same section of river. The animal has been spotted as far north as the Potomac River Bridge, just 50 miles south of Washington D.C. In August, researchers witnessed a dolphin birth in the river near Lewisetta, Virginia. It was just the third dolphin birth ever recorded in the wild. Alpharetta, Georgia to host women-only half-marathon and 5K on November 3 Scientists are unsure if the population of dolphins that occupy the river is growing and, if it is, if the growth is because the river is cleaner than it once was. It’s also unsure how the warming waters caused by climate change impact the dolphin’s behavior.  “We are thrilled to welcome hundreds of female athletes and their friends and family to our city,” said Janet Rogers, president and CEO of Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau. “[The] race weekend gives visitors even more ways to support and celebrate the women of our beautiful city.”  ATVs may soon be allowed in Utah’s national parks In a major policy shift, off-road vehicles like ATVs may soon be allowed in Utah’s national parks beginning November 1. Off-road vehicles are generally banned in national parks, but the National Park Service’s acting regional director, Palmer “Chip” Jenkins, directed a memo to park superintendents last week instructing them to align park policy to Utah law, which allows ATVs and other off-road vehicles on state and county roads as long as they are registered, insured and equipped with the standard safety equipment. The decision was made without public comment. Dolphins are swimming, mating and birthing babies in the Potomac Riverlast_img read more

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Bar hands out media awards

first_imgBar hands out media awards The Florida Bar has selected three media organizations as grand prize winners in the 50th Annual Media Awards competition. Two other media organizations were also selected as honorable mentions. Each winner will be recognized at The Florida Bar’s Reporters’ Workshop in December.This year’s grand prize winners are The Miami Herald (newspapers and other periodicals with circulation over 50,000), the Daily Business Review (newspapers and other periodicals with circulation under 50,000), and WTSP-TV of St. Petersburg (television). Honorable mentions are awarded to The Palm Beach Post and The Panama City News Herald. Each news organization will receive a plaque bearing its name, and certificates will be given to all individuals who contributed to the submissions.When selecting this year’s winners, the judges considered such factors as the informational and educational value of the entry, the degree of difficulty of the subject matter, and whether the entry disclosed practices or procedures in need of correction to encourage improvement of the system. The Miami Herald received the grand prize in the category of newspapers and other periodicals with circulation more than 50,000 with three entry submissions. One submission, “A Question of Justice,” is an investigative report that raised significant and troubling questions over whether the state executed an innocent man. The second submission, “Long Road to Clemency,” is a series that prompted Gov. Jeb Bush to approve widespread changes that instantly allowed an estimated 300,000 Floridians eligible to regain their civil rights and vote. The third submission, “Justice Withheld,” is about a plea deal called a withhold of adjudication and can be approved by judges. The Daily Business Review is the grand prize winner in the category of newspapers and other periodicals with circulation less than 50,000 with three entry submissions. The first submission is a series that focused on litigation arising from the protests during the Free Trade Area of the Americas conference in Miami. The second submission is a series about problems associated with the judicial nominating commissions in Broward and Palm Beach counties. The third submission was a series about the policies and priorities of U.S. Attorney Marcos D. Jiminez.WTSP-TV is the grand prize winner in the television category. WTSP-TV submitted “Murders in the Community,” a report on the number of people convicted of murder in Florida who were released from prisons in the past 10 years and now live in Florida communities. WTSP-TV used a freedom of information request to find out how many convicted murderers are living among us. The Palm Beach Post and The Panama City News Herald were selected as honorable mentions. The Palm Beach Post submitted three pieces, including a series about a man who was convicted of a murder he did not commit. The Panama City News Herald submitted a series of articles that involved the issue of whether prosecutors can arbitrarily seal documents that are open under public records laws by labeling them as “part of an ongoing investigation.”This year’s judges were Duane Stanford of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ; Rebekah Radisch of UNC-TV; Lyrissa Lidsky, professor, University of Florida Levin College of Law; and attorneys Gregory Herbert, of Greenberg Traurig, P.A., and Linda Carol, Charlottesville, Va. Bar hands out media awardscenter_img August 15, 2005 Regular Newslast_img read more

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Why CRM needs to be in your 2018 tech budget

first_img 144SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Paul Abdool Paul Abdool is the Vice President of Sales – CFI at Doxim, a leading provider of cloud-based customer engagement solutions for credit unions and wealth management firms. Find out more at … Web: www.doxim.com Details 2018 promises to be a year of both new opportunities and new competitive threats for credit unions. In response to the ongoing emergence of FinTechs and digital banks, and the increasing expectations of tech-savvy customers, credit union leaders are seeking practical ways to improve their go-to-market strategies and their customer experience across all channels (including in-branch, phone, website, and mobile banking). Why are they doing this? Well, for the last five years, 54% of bank and credit union marketers have reported that cross selling and growing share of wallet is their number one priority, according to the 2017 Digital Banking Report. But despite this focus:32% struggle with delivering personalized, targeted messages28% struggle with audience segmentation30% struggle with understanding customer needsSo, while the intent to grow is there, credit union marketers are being held back by a lack of actionable member data and insights. And similar roadblocks are being experienced across the board by employees in member services, sales – even finance.This situation has sparked a resurgence of interest in customer relationship management (CRM), also referred to as member relationship management (MRM). Today’s MRM solutions offers substantial benefits for everyone from executives down to front-line staff, and most importantly, for valued members.Here are four of the ways MRM can help any credit union become a more nimble, data-driven organization.1) Streamlining sales and service processesCultivating strong relationships with your member base is job #1 at every credit union. But if MSRs don’t have immediate access to the member’s past information and history, it becomes very difficult for them provide a consistent, efficient member experience and personalized financial advice.Implement MRM though, and your MSRs will be equipped with the tools and information they need to interact with members in valuable ways. They’ll resolve complaints faster, serve members and fulfill their needs faster, and enjoy their day-to-day jobs more when they aren’t rooting for customer information across multiple disconnected systems.2) Insight into activities and what it takes to engage with membersCredit union Member Experience teams are trying to keep up with the changing needs of members, and it’s a complicated job. Just ten years ago, most members weren’t even using smartphones, and now they do more online than anyone could have imagined. As futurist Brett King indicates, “…banking is no longer somewhere you go, but something you do.”A MRM system can be used to track responses to member engagement initiatives, serving as a springboard to test new ideas and determine what resonates with members across both traditional and emerging channels. It’s a vital source of information to help Member Experience professionals monitor behavioral and demographic shifts in the member base, and adjust accordingly.3) Granular reporting on targeted marketing campaignsModern marketers love data, which means a MRM solution that gives the CMO insights into in-flight campaigns is imperative. With access to MRM, marketing can pick exactly the right audience for each campaign, boosting response rates. And they’ll be able to track efficacy by instantly accessing rich data about opportunities and their lifecycle stages.MRM takes the guesswork out of marketing. Once it is in place, marketers will know who buys what, how many interactions it takes to sell a given product, what types of interactions (phone calls, in person, in branch) are most effective for selling, and what percentage of marketing opportunities are actually in progress and which haven’t been touched yet.4) Understanding potential pipeline for financial forecastingFor a credit union CFO, instant access to company data is essential. However, disparate legacy back office systems isolate information.  Since the information can’t be easily accessed, it frustrates business units and slows their time to market, which in turn leads to the ineffective use of resources.  A MRM solution acts as a central data source for activities like accurate financial forecasting, which rely on a complete understanding of the sales pipeline.MRM puts data at the CFO’s fingertips, so they can understand changes in the market to allow them to respond quickly. And many MRM solutions today even make this critical data available in real time through executive dashboards, so the CFO and other members of the leadership team can make informed decisions that steer the credit union in the right direction.The Future is Customer-CentricBy 2020, PWC analysts project that ““Customer intelligence” will be the most important predictor of revenue growth and profitability” at financial institutions. Credit unions that build the technological capabilities to understand and meet member needs will be ahead of the game, offering seamless and personal omnichannel experiences that help grow member relationships. By implementing the right technology now, credit union leaders can ensure a bright future for their organizations, by meeting the trend towards increased member-centricity head on.CRM (MRM) = substantial operational benefits + ROI.To learn more about how CRM pays its own way for credit unions, check our free eBook “CRM in Credit Unions: the Undiscovered Revenue Source”SaveSavelast_img read more

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5 ways credit unions can crush competitors online

first_img 32SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr continue reading » To be successful online, community banks and credit unions must compete head-to-head with both big banks and smaller local institutions within their footprint. This can be a challenge.Big banks spend over $17 billion on advertising and marketing annually, according to the FFIEC. Additionally, since many local community institutions may share similar attributes like supporting their communities and personalized service, it can be extremely difficult trying to differentiate your brand.The key to crushing your competitors (online or offline) is to understand how you are truly different from both big national banks and smaller local institutions.last_img

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Avian flu suspected in ducks in Sweden, cat in Germany

first_imgFeb 28, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Europe braced for further spread of the H5N1 avian influenza virus today in the wake of reports that the virus was suspected in the deaths of two wild ducks on Sweden’s Baltic coast and a domestic cat in Germany.The cat was discovered last weekend on Ruegen, the island off Germany’s north coast where H5N1 was first discovered on German soil, according to a Reuters report.Cats have been known to contract the H5N1 virus before. For example, a zoo near Bangkok, Thailand, lost 147 tigers to H5N1 and subsequent culling after they were fed chickens in October 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement issued late today.Albert Osterhaus, a virologist with the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, told Reuters he was not surprised by the cat case.”People should keep their cats inside in regions where the disease was found,” Reuters quoted Osterhaus as saying. “Cat-to-human transmission is theoretically possible and not to be excluded. We have seen cat-to-cat transmission in laboratory experiments.”But the WHO sought to allay concern about avian flu in housecats. “There is no present evidence that domestic cats play a role in the transmission cycle of H5N1 viruses,” the agency said today. “To date, no human case has been linked to exposure to a diseased cat. No outbreaks in domestic cats have been reported.”Avian flu apparently can spread from birds to cats, but there is no evidence that cats are a reservoir for the virus, the WHO said. There have been a few reports of infected housecats in recent years; in all of them, eating raw infected poultry was the most likely cause of infection, the agency said.In other outbreak news:Two wild birds in the south German state of Bavaria were found to have H5N1, Bloomberg News reported today, marking the spread of the virus in five of Germany’s 16 states.Iraq was investigating three possible human cases in Baghdad and one in the province of Diyala, in the northeast, Reuters reported. The WHO has already confirmed two human deaths from avian flu in Iraq.Ethiopia suspects an avian flu virus is behind the deaths of more than 6,000 chickens in the Southern Nation and National People’s state, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). Samples are being sent to a laboratory in Italy to determine the virus subtype, said the agriculture and rural development ministry spokesman, Mulugeta Debalkew. The affected farm is 110 miles southwest of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, AFP reported.Ethiopia’s southern neighbor, Kenya, has said that dead poultry found in Nairobi did not have H5N1, according to a separate AFP report from Nairobi today. However, the story did not mention what testing method was used, and Kenyan authorities did not say what did kill at least 400 chickens dumped in a residential area of the capital city last weekend.While Pakistan awaits test results to determine the neuraminidase type in its confirmed H5 cases, culling has begun at the two affected farms, according to the United Nations’ Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) today. About 25,000 birds were culled as a precautionary measure, according to Pakistan’slivestock commissioner, Dr. Muhammad Afzal. Pakistan has said that early tests found evidence of a mild H5 virus, but, Afzal told IRIN, “It’s better to take an international opinion as well, so we have sent the samples to Britain.”Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was quoted by Reuters today as saying that the virus is spreading relentlessly.”Every day there’s another country . . . and it’s going to go all the way across (the globe), there’s no doubt about it,” Fauci said at a conference on avian flu in Washington, DC.WHO worried about NigerIn addition, the WHO today issued a situation update on the H5N1 poultry outbreaks in Niger. It reads like a grim prediction, echoing the concerns of many experts about the presence of the lethal virus in Africa:”Detection of the virus in Niger confirms fears that conditions in West Africa, including late detection of outbreaks, the fluid movement of birds across borders, and low population awareness of the disease, will favor spread to additional countries. Experience in all affected countries has shown how easily and rapidly the virus can become established in birds when detection is late and the introduction of control measures is delayed.”Possible outbreaks in other African countries are under investigation, the WHO noted, and many countries’ responses are hindered by nonexistent early-warning systems in people or humans, poor diagnostic capacity, and difficulties shipping specimens.In addition, WHO said the virus found in Africa is “virtually identical” to the viruses known to be lethal to people.Noting that Africa’s roughly 1.1 billion chickens are mostly produced on backyard farms, the agency said, “Concern that human cases may occur in affected parts of Africa is high, given the close contact between people and poultry. . . . Each additional human case gives the virus an opportunity to evolve toward a form that spreads easily from person to person.”FAO fears economic toll of avian fluThe WHO’s sister agency, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), voiced concern today about the global economic toll of avian flu. The FAO said unwarranted fears of disease transmission are reducing demand for poultry, undercutting prices and industry profits and hurting family livelihoods and job opportunities in developing countries.The agency said it “expects poultry consumption shocks this year in many countries in Europe, Middle East, and Africa that have been hit by avian influenza. As unfounded fears of disease transmission reduce consumption and imports, lower domestic prices are forecast to limit production growth.”FAO commodity specialist Nancy Morgan commented, “A steady erosion of previously expected gains in per caput poultry consumption will likely push down global poultry consumption in 2006, currently estimated at 81.8 million tonnes, nearly 3 million tonnes lower than the previous 2006 estimate of 84.6 million tonnes.”The agency said poultry consumption recently dropped 70% in Italy, 20% in France, and 10% in northern Europe after the discovery of avian flu in those places. In India, poultry prices have dropped about 12% as result of sinking demand. And in the United States, the price of broiler chicken parts dropped 13% as a result of declining shipments to Eastern Europe and Central Asia in November and December.About 200 million chickens have died of avian flu or been killed since the onset of the crisis late in 2003, the FAO said.Health authorities have said repeatedly that people run no risk of acquiring avian flu from eating poultry and egg products, provided they are handled and cooked properly. Yesterday, WHO Director General Dr Lee Jong-wook reaffirmed this, saying, “Globally, the evidence demonstrates that there is no risk of infection when birds and eggs are well-cooked, as this kills the virus. Poultry products are important sources of protein throughout the world.”See also:Feb 28 WHO statement on avian flu in catshttp://www.who.int/csr/don/2006_02_28a/en/index.htmlFeb 28 WHO statement on H5N1 in Nigerhttp://www.who.int/csr/don/2006_02_28/en/index.htmlNov 22, 2004, CIDRAP News story on tiger infectionshttp://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/influenza/avianflu/news/nov2204avflu.htmlFeb 28 FAO statementhttp://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000240/index.htmllast_img read more

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Wills power

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