With 109 confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fears of a pandemic are starting to plague people across the country. Jumping on the worry-bandwagon are employers and employees alike.
With more and more cases in the United States, experts say it’s important for companies to make plans now as to how they can keep their employees healthy while keeping the business up and running. Some of these changes could include telecommuting, increased video conferencing, social distancing and strict personal hygiene policies.
Experts also say that if a pandemic does occur and businesses don’t have a plan in place, the results could be costly: there would be increased absenteeism rates, decreased business travel, and less consumer spending as wary citizens avoid public places.
According to global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the 2003 SARS outbreak – which was relatively minor, infecting just 8,000 people worldwide – was estimated to cost the Chinese economy $18 billion in lost economic activity, including a 65 percent drop in tourism and a 15 percent decline in retail sales. When the virus spread to Toronto, the Conference Board of Canada estimated that it cost the city $1 billion in lost gross domestic product.
Here tips from the CDC to avoid spreading the virus:
- If you have flu symptoms, stay home from work to avoid spreading the disease. Do not return until two days after your symptoms are gone.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands frequently.
- Go to the hospital if you have severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, but if your symptoms are mild stay home to avoid spreading the virus to others at the hospital.
- Masks may be recommended for health care workers, family members and others who come in close contact with swine flu patients, but there is no need for the general public to wear masks.
- It is safe to eat properly handled pork. Cook it to at least 160 degrees.