Note: We originally posted this article on February 19, 2009. Ironically, we are now in the middle of a Swine Flu virus, that has caused the World Health Organization to raise the pandemic threat level to Phase 5, the second-highest level in the worldwide warning system.
Pandemic Influenza is when a new influenza virus emerges for which there is little or no immunization in the human population- a global disease outbreak, which causes serious illness and spreads person to person worldwide. Planning for Pandemic Influenza by business and industry is essential to minimize the impact of a pandemic. It is essential to have a contingency plan.
Employers should develop a Pandemic Preparedness Plan by:
- Knowing Federal, State, and Local Health Department Pandemic Influenza Plans.
- Preparing for operations with reduced workforce.
- Ensuring their suppliers/customers that they will continue to operate.
- Developing a company policy that does not penalize employees for being sick; thereby encouraging them to stay home when they have symptoms such as fever, runny nose, muscle aches, or upset stomach, rather than exposing other employees.
- Understanding that their employees may need to take care of other ill family members.
- Considering enhancement of technology and communications equipment in order to allow employees to work from home.
- Cross-training employees in order to be prepared for absence of workers.
- Keeping their employees informed of their preparations in case of a widespread disease, making them feel safe about their work, and able to be off if necessary due to illness.
It is also important that employers educate their employees on coughing etiquette, hygiene, and using personal protective equipment when necessary. This could mean gloves, goggles, respirators, and other means of preventing the spread of germs. Hand sanitizer, tissue, and soap should be provided. Employees should be discouraged from using each others’ computers, phones, and equipment. Washing hands often is one of the most important ways to keep down the spread of germs.
Another important measure of prevention is the flu vaccine. Sometimes it takes a few months for the proper vaccine to be developed after there is an outbreak; however, whatever flu vaccine is available should alleviate the severity of the illness. Note: there is no vaccine for this type of flu; scientists are working round-the-clock to prepare a vaccine to be ready for human testing. In the United States, thousands of courses of Tamiflu and Relenza, have been sent to states reporting confirmed cases of swine flu. The government has a stockpile of the courses ready as needed. These two anti-viral medications are the best known to treat influenza.