How to Prevent Spread of Illness to Healthy Employees

Spread of the pandemic influenza A (H1N1) "Swine flu" virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their eyes, mouth, or nose.

What can employers do to protect employees?

Encourage sick workers to stay home and away from the workplace, and provide flexible leave policies.
Encourage infection control practices in the workplace by displaying posters that address and remind workers about proper hand washing, respiratory hygiene, and cough etiquette.
Provide written guidance (email, etc.) on pandemic influenza A (H1N1) flu appropriate for the language and literacy levels of everyone in the workplace. Employers should work closely with local and state public health officials to ensure they are providing the most appropriate and up-to-date information (e.g., the CDC H1N1 Flu website).
Provide sufficient facilities for hand washing and alcohol-based (at least 60%) hand sanitizers (or wipes) in common workplace areas such as lobbies, corridors, and restrooms.
Provide tissues, disinfectants and disposable towels for employees to clean their work surfaces, as well as appropriate disposal receptacles for use by employees.

One study showed that influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person for up to 2-8 hours after being deposited on the surface. To reduce the chance of spread of the pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus, disinfect commonly-touched hard surfaces in the workplace, such as work stations, counter tops, door knobs, and bathroom surfaces by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.

What can employees do to reduce the spread of novel influenza A (H1N1) flu in the workplace?

Stay home if you are sick. If you have symptoms of influenza-like illness, stay home for 7 days after symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. Following these recommendations will help keep you from infecting others and spreading the virus.
Employees who are well but who have an ill family member at home with pandemic H1N1 flu can go to work as usual. These employees should monitor their health every day, notify their supervisor and stay home if they become ill.
Employees who have an underlying medical condition or who are pregnant should call their health care provider for advice, because they might need to receive influenza antiviral drugs to prevent illness.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used if soap and water are not available.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
Avoid close contact with sick people. If an employee suspects that they have been exposed to a sick person with pandemic H1N1 influenza they may continue to go to work as usual. These employees should monitor their health every day and should notify their supervisor and stay home if they become ill.

(Taken from the Centers for Disease Control's "General Business and Workplace Guidance for the Prevention of Novel Influenza A (H1N1) in Workers")

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