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Start preparing for flu outbreak

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Now is the time for businesses to prepare for the possibility of an outbreak of H1N1 influenza and figure out how operations can continue if employees are home sick.

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An outbreak of H1N1 may not happen but it doesn't hurt to be prepared. Each business is different, but there are some that might not be able to maintain normal operations if most of its employees were unable to work for two weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control has developed recommendations for employers to take in preparing for an outbreak of H1N1.

Among the recommendations:

-Review or establish a flexible influenza pandemic plan and involve your employees in developing and reviewing your plan.

-Conduct a focused discussion or exercise using your plan, to find out ahead of time whether the plan has gaps or problems that need to be corrected before flu season.

-Have an understanding of your organization's normal seasonal absenteeism rates and know how to monitor your personnel for any unusual increases in absenteeism through the fall and winter.

-Engage state and local health department to confirm channels of communication and methods for dissemination of local outbreak information.

-Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs.

-Develop other flexible leave policies to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members or for children if schools dismiss students or child care programs close.

-Share your influenza pandemic plan with employees and explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits will be available to them.

-Share best practices with other businesses in your communities to improve community response efforts.

Many of these recommendations apply to any sort of outbreak or illness that might be spread around an office, including regular influenza. Probably the best recommendation is to make sure a sick person stays home to prevent spreading an illness.

Start thinking about how to prepare for an outbreak. It's better to be prepared than caught off guard.

For more information on how to make preparations for an influenza outbreak, go to www.cdc.gov.

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