Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pandemic Flu

April 18, I attended a joint American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE)/American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) local chapter meeting at On the Border: Mexican Grill & Cantina in Hicksville, NY regarding the Pandemic Flu presented by Susan V. Donelan, M.D., Director of Healthcare Epidemiology Department from Stony Brook University Medical Center. Ms. Donelan's presentation was very interesting. One important point I took from the meeting was the need for businesses to make plans where 40-60% of their work staff may be sick, tending to someone who is sick, or may not come in because of concerns of getting sick. With statistics like that it is no wonder that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a "OSHA Guidance Update on Protecting Employees from Avian Flu Viruses." Avian Flu is a highly pathogenic avian H5N1 virus that is spreading across eastern Asia and other countries. This virus has not been able to spread from human to human, yet. However, health officials just figure it is only a matter of time before that occurs. The document contains recommendations for poultry employees and those who handle other animals, and for laboratory employees, healthcare personnel, food handlers, travelers, and workers stationed abroad. The document's focus is on good hygiene as well as respiratory protection. On my current contract it is interesting that some of the schools I monitor have already included Pandemic Planning into their Emergency Plans. Has your business developed a plan for handling 60% of your staff being out of work? If a Pandemic is going to occur, and the only question is when, what are you waiting for?

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