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Better Business Bureau ®
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In Central Virginia
Defend Your Business Against the H1N1 Virus This Winter
September 30, 2009

According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, the H1N1 virus — the so-called “Swine Flu” — isn’t any more deadly than a seasonal flu, but it is transmitted more easily. Employers play a vital role in preventing the spread of the H1N1 virus and Better Business Bureau offers the following advice to bolster the workplace against the threat of flu this winter.

According to the Center for Disease Control, seasonal flu causes 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths every year on average.   The H1N1 flu is having a marked impact on the number of reported cases this year and the Center for Disease Control reported in September that 21 states were reporting widespread influenza activity—the vast majority of cases are being identified as the H1N1 strain. 

“Any places where a lot of people congregate, such as the workplace, become hot spots for spreading the flu virus,” said Alison Southwick, BBB spokesperson. “Employers can take a few easy steps to significantly diminish the risk of spreading the virus around the office which will help keep employees healthy and the business operating through a tough flu season.”

BBB offers the following advice to business owners on how to prepare for the upcoming flu season and a potential H1N1 flu outbreak:

Encourage employees who are feeling sick to stay home. The CDC strongly recommends that employees who have flu-like symptoms should stay home until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever. This will reduce the risk of spreading viruses to other employees.

Employers can encourage employees to stay home by allowing flexible leave or alternate work schedules to facilitate employees taking care of their own health and that of their families. CDC also recommends not requiring a doctor’s note for employees with flu-like symptoms.

Remind employees of habits for good hygiene. Good hygiene will greatly help prevent the spread of germs and viruses throughout the office.  CDC encourages employers to offer education on hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes in an easy-to-understand format and in appropriate languages. Also consider providing hand sanitizer, no-touch trash cans, and tissues.

The CDC also recommends that employers encourage staff to get vaccinated for both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 flu virus.

Prepare a business continuation plan.
Following a disaster, 25 percent of all businesses that close never reopen and that number jumps to 50 percent of businesses that don’t have a continuation of operations plan, according to the Institute for Business & Home Safety.

A business continuation plan would help direct employees and management on steps to take if key leadership becomes sick or if a major catastrophe temporarily prevents business operations. Because large numbers of staff could contract the flu, employers should ensure the business can continue operating by training other employees to step in if key staff should become ill.  Learn more from BBB about developing a Business Continuation Plan.

For more advice on preparing your business for the flu season, visit the CDC’s Web site, www.flu.gov.  

For additional advice from BBB on managing a business, visit www.bbb.org.