Federal CDC offers flu information for businesses

August 23, 2009
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The federal Centers for Disease Control has issued H1N1 guidance for businesses, and the information is available on the Web.

The CDC is urging businesses to provide “flexible leave policies” that allow workers to stay at home while they are sick. After coming down with flu-like symptoms, people should stay at home for 24 hours after the fever is gone.

It also suggested that employers encourage hygiene, such as covering coughs and washing hands with soap and water or 60 percent alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Those items should be available not only in restrooms, but in lobbies and corridors, as well. Free, downloadable posters encouraging these healthy practices are available at the CDC’s Web site.

Keeping surfaces clean is another important preventable measure for the workplace, the CDC says. Employers should make sure workers have tissues and disinfectant and disposable towels for cleaning their own work surfaces. Employers should maintain cleanliness on common surfaces such as door knobs and countertops.

The CDC does not recommend facemasks or respirators for most non-health-care work situations, even when the swine flu is circulating in the community. In health care jobs, it suggests a respirator for healthy workers caring for H1N1 victims and reassignment for workers who have an underlying health condition that would make them more susceptible to the virus.

Employees who arrive at work with flu-like symptoms should be separated from co-workers by at least six feet and sent home as quickly as possible, the CDC says. The supervisor should be notified. If the case is suspected or confirmed as swine flu, co-workers should be notified, but only in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect privacy.

The CDC also suggests appointing a workplace coordinator to respond to any H1N1 outbreak in the organization. Plans and expectations of employees should be announced ahead of time.

Key business functions, processes and employees should be identified and plans made to continue even if a significant number of workers come down sick, the CDC urges. An emergency communications plan should be mapped out.

Find more information about the workplace and H1N1 on the CDC’s Web site at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance/workplace.htm.

Information about dealing with swine flu in the workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act is located at www.flu.gov/faq/workplace_questions (click on Equal Employment Opportunity and privacy issues).

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