The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released updated guidance that recommends action non-healthcare employers should take against swine (H1N1) and seasonal flu during the fall and winter of 2009-2010.
The guidance comes in two parts: one if flu severity is no worse than it was this spring and one if it gets significantly worse.
The recommendations if severity is similar to spring/summer 2009:
- Sick persons should stay home. The CDC recommends that employees with flu-like symptoms remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100° or higher), without the use of fever-reducing medication.
- Sick employees at work should be told to go home immediately. Then, they should follow the above guidance about when to return to work.
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Best practice: sneezing and coughing into your sleeve instead of your hands.
- Improve hand hygiene. Instruct employees to wash their hands often with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner, especially after coughing or sneezing.
- Clean surfaces and items that are more likely to have frequent hand contact. These include workstations, countertops and doorknobs.
- Encourage employees to get vaccinated. This includes vaccination against seasonal and swine flu. Another option: Contract with a local medical provider to give flu shots at your facility.
- Protect employees who are at higher risk for complications from flu. People at higher risk include pregnant women; those with chronic lung disease (such as asthma), heart disease, diabetes, diseases that suppress the immune system and other chronic medical conditions.
- Prepare for an increase in employee absences due to their own illness or sick family members they have to care for. Decide which functions are essential to your business so those workers who are still present can carry those out.
Recommendations for conditions with increased severity compared to spring/summer 2009:
- Consider screening employees who report to work. Send workers home who have fever or chills and cough or sore throat. Don’t require a doctor’s note from employees who take time off due to flu symptoms.
- Plan alternative work arrangements for employees at higher risk for complications from flu (see list above). This could include telecommuting.
- Consider increased social distancing at work. Goal: Workers should be at least 6 feet apart at most times.
- Prepare for school dismissals or closure of child care. This may require workers with children to leave work suddenly.
Links to more information:
- Worker safety and health guidance for a flu pandemic from OSHA
- Resources for healthcare facilities.