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Businesses Need Swine Flu Action Plan, U.S. Says
Date:8/19/2009

Employers must prepare now for more sick workers, new federal guidelines say

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Telecommuting, flexible work hours and even keeping employees 6 feet apart are all ways to reduce the spread and impact of H1N1 swine flu on America's businesses, government experts said in new guidelines issued Wednesday.

Above all, employers need to remain flexible as the fall/winter flu season approaches, because the extent and severity of the outbreak remains uncertain, according to the guidelines for businesses issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Companies need to plan for continuity of operations with a depleted workforce," Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said during a press conference Wednesday. "A little planning now will help ensure that our economy withstands whatever the H1N1 virus throws us this fall."

According to the CDC, more communities may be affected by both the H1N1 swine flu and the seasonal flu in coming months than last spring, and every business needs to have a swine flu action plan in place.

"Businesses play a key role in protecting employees' health and safety as well as limiting the negative impact to the economy and society, whether in regular flu season or during an outbreak of the H1N1," Locke said. Businesses can help by setting the "right tone" within their companies, he added. "That starts by letting employees know that if employees exhibit flu-like symptoms, they shouldn't come to work. If an employee shows symptoms during the workday, the CDC recommends that that employee be asked to go home."

Some of the key points for employers:

  • Stay in touch with your local health department, and plan now to obtain accurate sources of information on flu outbreaks and school closures in your area. Also, track any spikes in absenteeism among staff.
  • Encourage good flu-preventive hygiene, such as f
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