Thursday, September 03, 2009

Preparing for a Pandemic

As the days grow shorter and the temperatures grow colder, stories about a possible flu pandemic this winter have started to appear in the press with greater frequency. While I am not overly concerned about the risk of a devastating epidemic, I do think it’s advisable to make some preparations. Back in 1999 we prepared extensively for possible disruptions from Y2K. When the year 2000 finally did arrive, we had no date-related problems which was due in large part to the extent of our preparations. Additionally, our Y2K-inspired efforts at safeguarding our operations had the collateral benefit of improving the overall technological health of this office. Similarly, I don’t think any effort expended on preparing for the possibility of a severe flu outbreak will be wasted.

I’ve spent some time researching ways to reduce the risk of exposure to flu in the workplace. The recommendations are simple and based on common sense. Here are some of them:

*Stay home if you are sick
*Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
*If you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer
*Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or cough into your upper sleeve
*Avoid shaking hands
*Keep frequently touched common surfaces such as telephones and computer equipment clean

Those are just a few of the recommendations. We’ll soon be ordering tissues, hand sanitizer and sanitizing clothes for office equipment.

In 1918, the influenza pandemic came in two waves. The first struck in March and was relatively mild, no different than other seasonal flu outbreaks. But by August, the virus soon mutated into something deadly. By the time it was over between 50 million and 100 million people around the world had died from it. While medical science of today is light years ahead of that which existed in 1918, the flu is still a virus that is capable of rapidly mutating into something unknown and untreatable. It’s important to be ready, just in case.

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