If the flu becomes more severe this fall and winter, it is likely to be a prolonged and widespread outbreak that could require major changes in many areas of society, including schools, businesses, transportation, and government. To be prepared, government health agencies encourage individuals, businesses, and communities to consider the following:
• Talk with your local public health officials and health care providers, who can supply information about the signs and symptoms of a specific disease outbreak and recommend prevention and control actions.
• Adopt business practices encouraging sick employees to stay home, and anticipate how to function with a significant portion of the workforce absent owing to illness or caring for ill family members.
• Practice good health habits, including eating a balanced diet, exercising daily, and getting sufficient rest.
• Take steps to stop the spread of germs, including frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying away from others as much as possible when you are sick.
• Stay informed about pandemic influenza and be prepared to respond. Businesses can receive e-mail updates on guidance and H1N1 facts and figures virtually daily through the federal government’s clearinghouse for influenza information: www.flu.gov.
At the end of the day, both the public and private sectors must incorporate the lessons we learned this spring. Being prepared to respond to an emergency is in a business’ own interest; it is also a shared responsibility of both business and government to become actively engaged in preparation and prevention efforts—working separately and together.