The spread of the H1N1 virus and its accompanying media coverage has been quite a phenomenal thing to follow over the past few weeks. The momentum that the infection built in a very short period of time is overshadowed only by how quick and how global the human response has been. The number of fatalities linked to H1N1 cases appear to be slowing and medical response to cases are improving. Past influenza outbreaks similar to this one tend to peter out in North America in the Spring and Summer while they often increase in scope and severity in the Southern Hemisphere (their winter). The fear is that they will make resurgence in North America in the Fall as a stronger and perhaps more resilient virus. Now is the time to prepare, not just for this virus, but use this as a wakeup call to make your organization prepared to deal with a Pandemic.
Long Term Proactive Measures
- Review Existing Insurance Policies – Health, life, and workers compensation insurance policies should be reassessed to determine what coverage exists that could be applicable in an outbreak situation.
- Review Existing Continuity Planning – Consider any business continuity plans in place and explore the need for further planning applicable to an event like the H1N1 outbreak.
Short Term Preventative Measures
- Investigate Travel Restrictions – While short term actions will vary depending on your organization, voluntary travel restrictions may prove to be a powerful way to protect your organization against consequences related to H1N1. As the infection spreads from human to human contact, it can be expected that any travel to areas with the highest numbers of confirmed cases will pose a higher threat to your employees.
- Encourage Prevention – General measures related to limiting the spread of germs should be promoted such as: hand washing, cleaning of doors and commonly touched surfaces, coughing into sleeves, and staying home when sick. A more complete list may be found at the Centre for Disease Control website at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/
- Employ Virtual Workplaces – While some organizations have chosen to close temporarily in response to direct exposure to the outbreak, alternate work arrangements are possible to minimize the time and resources lost in such a situation. Possibilities for working around absenteeism are really limitless but some organizations are exploring the use of virtual workplaces, both temporary and permanent, to limit the possibility for human-to-human transfer of the influenza.
- Inform and Educate – One of the strongest ways to mitigate risk posed by the H1N1 outbreak is to stay informed about the outbreak and to communicate to stakeholders how the organization is addressing the situation. Keeping informed about the facts of the outbreak without investing in the fear can help your organization to determine what measures bet fit your current situation and the current status of the outbreak. Websites from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are updated regularly with new information about the outbreak and about ways to protect against infection. Communicating with stakeholders, especially your employees should be a main focus of any reaction to the H1N1 outbreak. Keeping shareholders informed about how the organization is or can be affected, and making it known to all parties involved what the organization is doing to respond to the situation is a must in mitigating risk, promoting safety, and eliminating fear.