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NAOSH Week 2009
May 3-9, 2009

Safety 2009
June 28-July 1, 2009
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Responding to the H1N1 “Swine” Flu Outbreak


Communicate with Your Employees

Depending on the level of alarm at your organization, you may consider an email, a face-to-face meeting, an article in a newsletter, and postings in the break areas and rest rooms. Your objective is to get control of the situation, calm your employees’ fears, and avoid panic.

  • What advice can I give my employees to help prevent a possible swine flu outbreak at my workplace?
    Regardless of whether a virus is going around, you should always encourage your employees to practice good health habits, get enough sleep, manage their stress, eat well, and drink lots of fluids in order to keep their immune systems strong. You should also instruct your employees to wash their hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly, avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth, where germs can quickly spread, practice coughing and sneezing etiquette, and to stay at home if they feel ill. You could also give your employees access to hand sanitizer throughout the workday.
  • What should I do if one of my employees displays symptoms?
    As is the case with any other flu virus, if one of your employees expresses that they are experiencing any flu-like symptoms, encourage them to stay at home. Advise the employee to keep you updated on the status of their condition.
  • Should I wipe down surfaces at my workplace?
    Germs can live for two hours or longer on tables, doorknobs, desks, and other surfaces. You might consider doing this, particularly in common areas.
  • If one of my employees has possibly been exposed to someone with flu symptoms, should I advise my employees to wear facemasks?
    A mask is a barrier that can protect your nose and mouth from droplets that fly in the air when someone coughs. But it will not protect the conjunctiva in your eyes, which is another entry point. Used alone, a facemask will not prevent you from getting the flu.
  • When can I tell my employees that the danger from this flu virus has passed?
    You or your employees may have heard that the current H1N1 swine flu virus is not as dangerous as was initially feared. Right now, the virus does not have characteristics that have been found in past flu viruses with high morbidity and mortality rates. However, there is some concern that this virus could mutate over the summer months and return in the fall as a more dangerous flu virus. While the immediate threat may be subdued, you should continue to encourage your employees to practice good health habits over the summer months so that they are better prepared to respond to a possible virus resurgence in the fall.