Transcript: Bird Flu Fears

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," October 13, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Now a guy says this avian flu could have repercussions for the way we all work, even if it never hits here.

Joining me now from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange — actually, he's here. What am I saying? He's our labor expert, John Challenger.

See, I normally don't see him in the flesh. And now I do.

JOHN CHALLENGER, CEO, CHALLENGER GRAY & CHRISTMAS INC.: It's so nice to be here with you in Chicago.

CAVUTO: Good to see you, young man.

What do you make of what Julie was reporting, that the fear is that it spreading; the hit could be serious? What do you make?

CHALLENGER: Well, certainly, it could have major impact on the workplace.

We have seen what happened when SARS hit in Asia. We saw what happened to the business economy and the workplace after 9/11. Certainly, the places where people gather together in the workplace, at conventions, in airports, in restaurants, could be severely affected.

CAVUTO: So, do people travel less in that environment?

CHALLENGER: No question. You're worried that, if you're inside a plane, someone has it and it gets all through the filtration. So, you stay home more often. You start telecommuting.

CAVUTO: Yes, but we don't have evidence yet of human-to-human contact.

CHALLENGER: Well, we don't. So, nobody yet has said, all right, I am going to stop doing what I am doing. We're sitting here watching this, saying, if it happens, we are going to have to be much more cautious about the way we do things.

We did see, in Asia, that everybody started wearing masks.

CAVUTO: That's right.

CHALLENGER: They started going into companies. And, instead of going through a security gate for metal, they went in and had a test to make sure the person didn't have a fever. Those may become something that we see in every building, if this really begins to hit quickly.

CAVUTO: You know what I'm waiting for, too, John? The first company that says, you know what? Stay at home. Give us your info, your input, from home. Don't come in.

CHALLENGER: Well, you would think that companies are going to have a lot of employees saying just that. Give me a way. Equip me with the technology to let me get on my phone and on my BlackBerry.

CAVUTO: Are we seeing any evidence of that yet?


CAVUTO: Not yet.

CHALLENGER: But you know what? This could be the kind of event that jumps telecommuting, you know, technology to a new level...

CAVUTO: But what would be the places that it would most likely happen? Out West first, where there is at least exposure? That's an Asian transport center.

CHALLENGER: Well, you would think it would happen, you know, wherever it first hits. When we start to see the first cases, you know, there is going to be, you know, great fear out there. And many people are just going to say, you know, I'm going to, you know, stay at home and do my work from home, maybe even, you know, leave the workplace.

A lot of companies are going to have to fear, you know, are we going the lose employees, who say, this is just not a place I want to work, because there's too many people around?

CAVUTO: We are not at that point yet, but we could be. Right?

CHALLENGER: We could be.

CAVUTO: John, thank you very much.

CHALLENGER: Thanks, Neil.

CAVUTO: John Challenger here in the flesh.

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