05 November 2009
I realized how much discussion there has been about the flu pandemic when my daughter asked me if I had the swine flu when I was at home battling a cold. The swine flu fear erupted into violence in New York City’s D train when a woman coughed without covering her mouth. Although I do not condone violence, it is certainly understandable for people to be concerned especially as the number of swine flu related deaths appear to increase. I was not sure whether or not to stock on up hand sanitizer in preparation for the hand sanitizer shortage as I recall hunting for them in three stores back in May only to find shelves empty of hand sanitizers.
The FDA has begun cracking down on companies are cashing in on the swine flu frenzy by promising false swine flu remedies. Grandmothers in Texas are trying to go the back door of face mask companies in the middle of the night even though face masks are not 100% fool proof. The CDC says that very little is known about the effectiveness of using a face mask or respirator. Folks are stocking up on body suits, stocking up on food for their underground bunker. Technology companies are even monitoring social media chatter to track flu outbreaks. Google Flu Trend predicts flu outbreaks based on aggregated search data.
There is definitely a lot of hype out there but the threat of a pandemic is real. The swine flu can spread pretty quickly rendering entire office floors sick within days. A friend came down with the swine flu. The first symptom in his office appeared on Monday and by Friday 7 out of 10 in his group caught it.
What can you do as an individual to protect yourself from swine flu? Here are some recommendations to keep in mind:
- Sick people should stay at home if you have flu symptoms such as fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea etc.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds or with an alcohol based hand rub
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth to help prevent the spread of germ
- Stay home for at least 24 hours after you are free of fever (100° F [37.8°C]), or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing making sure to put your used tissue in the waste basket. (Do not forget to clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.)
- If you do not have a tissue handy, then cough into your elbow rather than your hands to help reduce the spread of germs
- Consider liberalizing sick, personal and family leave policies at least temporarily
- Provide training, education and informational material about business-essential job functions and employee health and safety
- Ensure that high contact areas such as door knobs, door handles, refrigerator doors, desk, keyboards, telephones etc. are cleaned regularly
- Encourage employees to be vaccinated
- Provide access to hand soap, hand sanitizers, tissues etc. to employees
- Develop plans for operating at reduced capacity
- Consider canceling non-essential business travel and advise employees about possible disruption while traveling overseas
- Consider allowing telecommuting and/or teleconferencing
- Prepare for temporary closing of schools or daycares
- Post and distribute literature to educate employees about the flu
- Consider providing a flu kit for your employees