Surveyed life insurers said they have plans in place for a potential pandemic and they are responding to the challenges that the coronavirus could pose for their clients.

According to a survey by Limra and Loma, of 28 U.S. financial services companies, 91% have a pandemic stress scenario in place and 71% have assessed and quantified the potential impact on their key business in the event of higher mortality.

So far, the Covid-19 coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 113,000 people around the world; more than 4,000 have died.

More than one-third (39%) of the insurance companies surveyed said they view the coronavirus outbreak as being similar in severity to a SARS-like or moderate pandemic. Another 26% of the respondents see the coronavirus as being more similar to a severe flu season. And 16% of companies view it as having the potential to be a severe pandemic with higher mortality than either SARS or the flu due to mutation.

The SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, which originated in China in November 2002, spread to several countries in Europe, North America, South America, and Asia. The virus infected more than 8,000 people worldwide and killed nearly 800 before it was contained in 2003.

Most companies, the survey pointed out, develop and run their own pandemic stress scenario, while 43% have taken it to a much higher level and are running scenarios based on the 1918 flu pandemic.

That pandemic, caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin, was the deadliest pandemic in recent history. It killed an estimated 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 deahts in the U.S.

The survey found that the potential impacts the companies considered in pandemic testing included additional mortality (84%), operational disruptions (84%), investment risk/market downturn (84%), recession risk (66%) and additional morbidity (44%).

As for the industry sources of information in monitoring the virus, 94% cite the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health; 84% said the World Health Organization; 72% depend on the U.S. and Canadian media; 28% follow news coverage overseas (China); and 22% look to international public health services (Canada, United Kingdom and European Union).