In just five months, the H1N1 Virus, commonly known as the Swine Flu, has affected thousands of people around the world and became a global epidemic. Specifically, the Western Hemisphere has seen the worst of the Swine Flu, with South America leading with the most cases and deaths, and North America following behind. Of the over 3,000 deaths from the epidemic worldwide, almost 700 were in the United States.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine for the H1N1 virus and will start mass producing and distributing around the world. There are a limited number of supplies available at the beginning of October. 45 million doses of the 195 million ordered by the government are scheduled to arrive October 15. The same side effects that people experience from the normal flu vaccine could be experienced with the H1N1 vaccine. There are also tests to see how many doses the average adult and child need to protect themselves of the epidemic, as well as the effectiveness of the vaccine as a nasal spray.
The World Health Organization (WHO) are encouraging certain groups to receive the vaccination as soon as possible. These groups include pregnant women, children ages 6 months - 24 years old, adults younger than 65 with flu-risk conditions (asthma, diabetes, heart disease), health workers, and caregivers. The H1N1 Virus is different from the normal flu virus as it attacks younger people more than the elderly. Schools are taking extra precautions to try and control the disease by sending students home from school if they feel ill, encouraging them to see doctors, and practicing healthy habits.
H1N1 & Your Small Business
The workplace is an easy place for germs to spread. It is important to practice healthy habits at work. For small businesses, it is especially important. Each employee in a small business plays an important and designated role; if they were to fall ill, their work would not get accomplished. Small businesses need to take action and fast before the H1N1 Virus infiltrates their business and could cause disaster.
Prepare a Plan: Be ready for the swine flu before it hits your business. Have a plan of action in case an employee contracts the H1N1 Virus. This way, if the situation does arise, the procedure is the same for every employee.
Practice Healthy Habits: These healthy habits are simple and should be followed on a daily basis to stop the spreading of germs.
- Cover your mouth! Sneezing and coughing is the easiest way to spread germs, especially if you do not cover your mouth. After you sneeze or cough, make sure you wash your hands. Another suggestion is to cough into your elbow to assure no germs are on your hands.
- Wash your hands! Use soap and warm water. Make sure you create friction between your hands to kill germs. Alcohol based hand sanitizer does the trick as well.
- Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Things that are often touched, such as phones, door handles/knobs, and counter tops should be cleaned regularly.
- Be thoughtful about others. If you are already sick, think about others around you and take precautions. Be safe, be sanitary, be healthy.
Work From Home: A sick employee who potentially has the H1N1 Virus is as risk for infecting the rest of your employees, especially if you work in a small area. If it is plausible for your business, have the employee work from home instead of coming in to work. The sick employee can then rest and enjoy the comforts of being at home while sick, but still get their work done. Be sure to check in with the sick employee periodically on their health as well as how their work is coming along.
Additional Resources: Organizations have taken steps to help the masses during the swine flu epidemic. WHO updates with their Twitter account, providing immediate updates on health around the world, especially with H1N1. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control provides statistics, health suggestions, and FAQs on their website. The government has also taken steps to specifically help small businesses with the epidemic by putting together a guide book to use as a reference for tips on how to protect your business and keep a healthy environment.
Practice these tips and more to keep your small business healthy and swine flu free.