Office workers need flu protection, too

By: June 30th, 2009 Email This Post Print This Post

Much that has been written about protecting workers from pandemic influenza applies to clinical settings, but employees in general office settings need protection, and employers can play a significant role in protecting workers, according to CDC guidance, posted June 25.

General Business and Workplace Guidance for the Prevention of Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Flu in Workers applies to employers with workers who face minimal occupational contact with the general public and other coworkers, such as office employees (See the OSHA risk pyramid on p. 11 of Preparing Workplaces for Influenza Pandemic). If the administrative and business functions of your healthcare facility are separate from patient care areas, this guidance may be more relevant than the guidance on protecting healthcare workers in clinical settings.

Using previously-issued guidance as a foundation, the document covers:

  • Symptoms of Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Flu
  • Prevention of Illness in Well Employees
  • Management of Employee Exposure in the Workplace after a Confirmed Case
  • How Businesses Can Respond to the Impact on their Operations and Employees

Some of the what if questions and answers in the management of exposures section address:

What to do if an employee with obvious flu-like symptoms reports for duty during a time when pandemic flu is in the community.

Answer: Notify appropriate health center personnel. Isolate the employee in a room by him- or herself. Require cough etiquette and face mask if the worker must go to common areas. Send the employee home as soon as possible. (Note: Sending home is only for employees with symptoms, not for employees possibly exposed but with no symptoms.)

What to do when co-workers are exposed to a suspected or confirmed case of novel influenza A (H1N1) flu.

Answer: Inform employees of their exposure to a co-worker with confirmed, probable, or suspected pandemic H1N1 flu during the ill person’s infectious period. Recommend that exposed employees monitor themselves for symptoms. Advise employees to check with their healthcare provider for special care if pregnant or having a chronic health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or emphysema.

The guidance also provides, in useful bullet-format, six steps that both employers and employees can do to prevent novel influenza A (H1N1) in the workplace.

The full list of CDC guidances for the current influenza pandemic is available at H1N1 Flu Clinical and Public Health Guidance.


Is it lawful for an employer to fire an employee for calling in sick while having the flu?


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