Pandemic Influenza – Is your company prepared?

What is pandemic influenza?

Influenza is an infection of the lungs and airways caused by an influenza virus.  Pandemic

influenza occurs when a new influenza virus, with an ability to spread easily from human to

human, circulates worldwide.


Pandemic influenza presents a new biological hazard into the workplace, and Health Canada (2006) anticipates a 20 to 25 percent work absenteeism rate during pandemic influenza.  It has been more than 35 years since the last pandemic and the historical average has been every 25 years.


The symptoms of H1N1 influenza virus in Canada have been generally mild and are similar to the symptoms of seasonal influenza. Symptoms may include:

·         Fever;

·         Cough;

·         Fatigue;

·         Muscle aches;

·         Lack of appetite;

·         Some people have also experienced runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

With so many people expected to become ill from this virus, the impact on your business can be significant.  An important strategy to combat this virus, not only in your work life but in your daily life, is prevention.  A constant regimen of hand washing, covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing (preferably with a tissue) and keeping distance from crowds during a pandemic will slow the spread of the virus.

Employee education about pandemic influenza is also important in stopping the spread of the virus.  A well outlined policy in conjunction with a company emergency preparedness plan will help everyone within your organization understand their role during a pandemic.

Any pandemic will be a balancing act for employers who have to weigh employee health and well-being with productivity.  Having a contingency plan for employees that become ill or are caring for an ill family member working from home for example, will go a long way to reducing a company’s losses during a pandemic.  

The time to plan for the upcoming season is now.  It is too late to start planning after the flu season has started, which is traditionally from October to April.  Has your company started planning for the pandemic?

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