Advance planning may help to minimize disruptions, officials say
MONDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- With cases of H1N1 swine flu continuing to rise, U.S. health officials on Monday urged small businesses to prepare now to keep their shops running if the flu season turns severe.
"We need to make sure that operations and businesses continue on even as we go through the flu season," Janet Napolitano, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, said during an afternoon news conference.
The planning needs to start now, said Dr. Daniel Jernigan, deputy director of the Influenza Division at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Plan now to prepare for the impact of influenza this fall and winter," he said.
Jernigan advised businesses to prepare for two different scenarios -- first if the H1N1 flu remains as mild as it has so far, and second if the virus should change and illness becomes more severe.
"Another key step for small businesses is to protect your workforce," Jernigan said. People should be encouraged to stay home if they are sick and not return to work until their fever has subsided for a day without using fever-reducing medication, he said.
"For most people that is three to five days away from work," Jernigan said. "Some small businesses will have to change their leave practices, but we think that's a good thing for this year."
Small businesses also need to take steps to maintain the continuity of operations, Jernigan said. "That means keeping your business going even during high levels of absenteeism," he said.
Karen Mills, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, said "being prepared for H1N1 is just part of good business."
"Having a plan is critical," she said at the news conference. "For small businesses, even having employees out for a few days can be a health concern and a bottom-line concern," she said.
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