Businesses may be not be sufficiently prepared for an outbreak of bird flu in the UK, Airmic has warned.

Reports of avian flu in Russia have sparked concern in the financial sectors, after the Department of Health estimated that a pandemic could debilitate up to 25% of the workforce at one time.

Last week a UN health official warned that a bird flu pandemic could kill 150 million people worldwide.

David Gamble, Airmic executive director, said: "Avian bird flu has huge implications for business continuity - people may not be allowed to come into the office for a long time, transport may be restricted, airports closed and countries quarantined."

Gamble said resilience and good planning had been shown in the wake of the London bombings, but he questioned the adequacy of current contingency plans in the case of an avian flu outbreak.

"The industry is well-organised, but even the best-laid plans can go astray," he said.

Bird flu first hit poultry and wild birds in Asia in 2003. Since that time it has killed huge numbers of birds and caused more than 60 human deaths.

The World Health Organ-isation has urged countries to prepare for the massive social and economic disruption that a pandemic may bring.