For Immediate Release
Businesses Should "Fight the Flu" by Preparing Now
The Springfield-Greene County Health Department urges local employers to join efforts to “Fight the Flu” by preparing now for a potentially difficult coming flu season. The combination of seasonal flu and the new H1N1 flu could result in high absenteeism, and the department encourages employers to be proactive in fighting the flu.
“There are many positive steps that businesses can take to help protect their employees and their customers” says director Kevin Gipson. “We encourage employers not to wait for an outbreak of seasonal flu or the new H1N1 flu, but to develop a plan now for disruptions that might be caused by illness in their workforce.”
Absenteeism may be caused by employees becoming sick or by employees staying home to care for sick family members.
“Employees with flu-like symptoms can infect other employees or customers,” adds Gipson. “It is very important that they stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone, without the use of fever-reducing medication. This will help slow the spread of flu in our community.”
The health department recognizes that high absenteeism can be difficult for businesses and encourages them to take basic steps to help keep their workforce healthy.
Handwashing facilities and supplies should be easily accessible throughout the day to both employees and customers. Alternatively, alcohol-based hand sanitizers should be made available. Commonly touched surfaces and items should be cleaned regularly to kill viruses that may linger there. This may include telephones, computer equipment, door knobs, handrails, light switches, desks, vending machines, coffee pot handles and breakroom surfaces. Posters may be used to serve as reminders, and fact sheets can be distributed to employees.
Employers are also urged to consider public health when establishing employee sick leave policies.
“We urge employers to weigh the benefit of allowing a sick employee to have a few days off against the risk of having that same employee come to work sick and infect other employees or customers,” says Gipson.
In accordance with guidance from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), the health department further recommends that businesses consider the following:
- Involve employees in reviewing or establishing a flexible influenza response plan for the business.
- Research the business’s normal seasonal absenteeism rate and monitor for unusual increases in absenteeism throughout the 2009-2010 flu season.
Report unusual increases in absenteeism to the health department.
- Establish a supportive atmosphere that encourages sick employees to stay home in accordance with the health department’s recommendation, without fear of losing their jobs.
- Develop flexible leave policies that allow employees to stay home to care for sick family members, or for children if schools dismiss students or child care programs close.
- Recommend that parents not bring their children to work with them if they are sick or if schools are dismissed.
For more information on how businesses can prepare for the fall flu season, call the health department’s information line at 417-864-1166 or visit www.springfieldmo.gov/health. Posters, fact sheets and other informational materials can be downloaded at www.fightthefluMO.com.
Media contact: Jaci McReynolds, Public Information Administrator, (417) 874-1205 office, (417) 830-9511 cell