Making H1N1 Your Business

Thomas O'Neill III, Peoria County Board

This year, the seasonal flu virus and the H1N1 influenza virus, a novel infectious disease with varying degrees of severity, are circulating simultaneously, and local governments have a responsibility to inform and protect our citizens as much as possible. We are also charged with safeguarding our economy against further tumult. We cannot achieve these objectives, however, without involving local business partners. It is important that local businesses help prepare for the flu season by sharing best prevention practices with their employees.

Employees and the general public are encouraged to comply with the following federal guidelines regarding flu prevention:

  • Get a seasonal flu shot. The annual shot is the best way to protect against becoming ill with the seasonal flu virus.
  • Help prevent the spread of the flu by using good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Practice the 3 Cs:
  • Clean—Wash your hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Cover—Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow or sleeve.
  • Contain—Stay home if you are sick.
  • Get an H1N1 flu shot when it becomes available.

The Peoria City/County Health Department, other area public health administrators and local elected officials are working with medical providers, school districts, day care centers, first responders and large businesses to encourage promoting these flu prevention behaviors within their own agencies. Health officials and community partners are also working to raise public awareness of H1N1, implement community prevention measures, coordinate mass vaccination clinics and offer guidance for business continuity of operations planning.

Business owners and employees alike should plan in advance how to respond in the event of high absenteeism, service restrictions and supply chain disruptions. A severe flu pandemic could have a major effect on the economy, including travel, tourism, recreation, financial markets and other trades. Planning can help alleviate disruption to business activities, protect employees’ health and safety, and limit the impact on our economy and ultimately our community.

Business owners can take the following steps to reduce compounding the effects of a severe outbreak:

  1. Review your current pandemic flu plan or create a plan in the absence of one.
  2. Involve employees in the plan review or development process.
  3. Confirm channels of communication and methods for disseminating pertinent outbreak information with your local health department.
  4. Share your plan with all employees and explain applicable policies and available leave, pay and benefit options.
  5. Try to provide flexible leave policies to allow workers to stay home when sick, care for sick household members, or care for children in the event that schools dismiss or childcare programs close.
  6. Work with companies in your supply chain to improve coordinated response efforts. Your local chamber of commerce or other associations may also be helpful in this regard. 
  7. Provide supplies such as tissues, soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer for employees and clients.

Lastly, contact your local health department or visit one of the following websites for more information on the seasonal flu or the new H1N1 influenza virus: pcchd.org or ready.illinois.gov. iBi

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