Whether you’re an employee or an employer, you should be aware of the emergency plans at your workplace. According to a recent OSHA alert, that should include a plan for a worldwide influenza pandemic.
When we mention influenza, or “flu” as it’s more commonly called, we usually think of an annoying but not life-threatening seasonal ailment. This is seasonal flu. While seasonal flu can pose a serious health hazard for small children, the elderly or those with compromised immune systems, it’s normally not fatal to healthy adults. That’s because most of us have, or develop, some immunity to the flu virus.
An influenza pandemic is completely different, according to the Indiana OSHA alert. During a pandemic, a new strain of the flu virus appears. No one has immunity to it, and it is passed quickly from person to person across the world. The last major influenza pandemic occurred between 1918 and 1920. The virus first appeared at a military base in Kansas, but spread rapidly across the globe. The disease was called the “Spanish Flu” because the Spanish press published more stories about it. In other countries, wartime censorship prevented newspapers from publishing stories about the flu. More than 50 million people died within 18 months. Many of them were healthy young adults who died within days of contracting the disease. According to OSHA, a pandemic could disrupt the global economy more than any single terrorist attack.
It’s important to note that no new strain of the influenza virus has emerged, and there is currently no flu pandemic. The seasonal flu that occurs every year during the fall and winter is not a major threat.
What are the best precautions to use during a pandemic? Some common sense tips are similar to those we use today, when facing a cold or the seasonal flu. They include:
Washing hands frequently and using hand sanitizer
Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, especially with a disposable tissue
Staying at least 6 ft. away from infected people
Staying home from work or school when you are ill
In addition, businesses can minimize the spread of disease by reducing the contact between coworkers. Conference calls can be scheduled instead of meetings, for example. Some employees may be able to work from home. In other cases, businesses may opt to install drive-thru windows or other barriers between employees and the public.
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