One of the challenges of business insurance is to keep up with the changing environment we see around us.

Certainly one of the more pivotal events of 2014 has been the regional outbreak of the Ebola virus in Western Africa. By the latest Frost & Sullivan report, the virus has infected around 10,000 people globally and killed almost 5,000.

While only Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have widespread outbreaks of the virus, tourism across the continent has bombed, leaving hotels, transport services and other businesses (even ones thousands of miles away) being hit by business interruption.

With the world a figuratively smaller place than ever before, the effects of this have not been restricted to African countries. As many services are reliant on import and export markets, these distant risks can also play a negative role in restricting business in Australia too.

As a result, a “world-first” policy designed to mitigate against the business risk of Ebola has been created, with the insurance industry showing a “healthy interest”, the policy underwriters said.

Ebola-related business interruption cover

Brooklyn Underwriting announced this month that it has collaborated with Ark Syndicate 4020 and Prospect at Lloyd’s to provide business interruption cover for Ebola-related delays or shutdowns, Insurance & Risk Professional reported.

The policy is designed particularly for public places, such as medical facilities, shopping centres, restaurants, bars and hotels, with limits of up to $5 million.

Many existing business interruption policies do include cover for the outbreak of infectious disease, though most exclude losses arising from risks like Ebola, SARS and bird flu, notifiable under the Quarantine Act 1908.

LMI Group’s Professor Allan Manning told Insurance & Risk Professional the risk of loss to Australian businesses is great enough to trouble the wider economy.

“The issue is that a serious outbreak could affect the already weakened Australian economy to the point that the accumulated losses are so great that the insurance industry does not have the funds to cover such losses,” he said.

While this may not be a problem for every enterprise, it does play a part in highlighting the variety of dangers able to disrupt a business or even cause catastrophic financial damage. To mitigate against all risks, discuss business cover with your insurance broker.