BACKGROUND

Pandemics are infections that spread quickly through the community. Some are more serious than others, but all have the potential to cause major problems. The most common examples are occasional epidemics of the influenza virus, such as the recent “swine flu”.

This page sets out 7 simple measures you can take to protect your employees and your business.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

If an infection causes higher rates of serious illness AND spreads rapidly, there will be serious and possibly unmanageable consequences- more people will be infected in a short timeframe, so health services may become overloaded, and larger numbers of deaths may result. Large numbers of people may be sick or quarantined, leading to massive disruption to social and business life. It is also known that the more rapidly these infections spread, the more likely it is that the virus will mutate by hybridising (mixing) with other strains and creating an even more serious threat.

Therefore, slowing the spread of these infections will reduce the impact on individuals as well as society and business, and may therefore become very important.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO? (7 STEPS TO HELP YOU MANAGE IN A PANDEMIC )

1. Keep your workplace informed – if a potentially serious infection is spreading, then learn how serious the threat is, and how quickly it is spreading. Get this information from reputable sources like the New Zealand Ministry of Health (www.health.govt.nz). Share the information around your staff. If you find it hard to interpret this information, or to know exactly what to do, contact Life Clinic for assistance.

2. Know what the common symptoms are – in the early stages, it can be easy to confuse symptoms with ordinary winter viruses, so ensure staff know what the most common symptoms of the illlness may be. If unsure consult the Ministry of Health website (www.health.govt.nz) or contact us.

3. Develop a hygiene culture at work – make sure your employees know (and practice) how to reduce the spread of infections in the workplace- provide alcohol-based hand santisers and disposable tissues and encourage their use. Put up posters on handwashings and on how to cough safely etc. Posters available on www.dol.govt.nz

4. Support prevention measures – annual flu vaccinations will give very good protection against most flu strains- contact your usual provider or Life Clinic. Book your flu vaccinations before Christmas for the next year.

5. Make sure sick staff stay away – encourage staff with potentially serious infections to stay off work for the recommended period- usually 5-7 days from the start of symptoms for influenza strains. Usually Pandemic phone lines will be set up in these situations, so provide them with this number and encourage them to use it. If you can’t find it, contact www.health.govt.nz or Life Clinic.

6. Have access to health services for critical staff – this may include having medical advice available at the end of the phone, testing facilities available, or having supplies of antiviral or antibiotic medicines available. Contact Life Clinic for assistance.

7. Develop a pandemic plan – this means having strategies in place to manage if there are widespread absences (this could be either through staff illness, or because of enforced quarantining of contacts of infected people). See Government pandemic planmning resources at www.med.govt.nz or www.dol.govt.nz or your local Chamber of Commerce.

 

Life Clinic has provided health services to business in New Zealand for over 20 years. New Zealand businesses use us for Pandemic Planning advice, so if you need to know more about what sort of health services you need for managing in a pandemic, contact Life Clinic.