Businesses may have already been passed by the spring and summer outbreaks of 2009 H1N1 influenza involving their employees. CDC expect that more communities may be affected than were in the spring/summer 2009, and/or more severely affected reflecting wider transmission and possibly greater effort. In addition, seasonal influenza viruses may cause illness at the same time as 2009 H1N1 this fall and winter. In response to the expected spread of 2009 H1N1 influenza, the CDC has revised its recommendations to assist businesses and other employers of all sizes.
The severity of illness that 2009 H1N1 influenza flu will cause (including hospitalizations and deaths) or the amount of illness that may occur as a result of seasonal influenza during the 2009-2010 influenza season cannot be fore-tell with a high degree of assurance. Therefore, employers should get respond in a flexible way to varying levels of severity and be prepared to refine their pandemic influenza response plans if a potentially more serious outbreak of influenza evolves during the fall and winter. More people and communities are likely to be affected as influenza is more widely transmitted. The CDC and its partners will continuously watch over the national and international information on the severity of illness caused by influenza, will disseminate the results of these ongoing surveillance assessments and will make more recommendations as required.
Considerations of Appropriate Response Strategies
All employers must balance a series of objectives when determining how best to decrease the spread of influenza and lower the impact of influenza in the workplace. They should consider and communicate their objectives, which may consist of one or more of the following: (a) reducing transmission among staff, (b) safeguarding the life of those who are at increased risk of influenza related complications from getting infected with influenza, (c) maintaining business operations, and (d) minimizing adverse impact on other entities in their supply chains.
* Disease severity (i.e., hospitalization and death rates) in the community where business is located;
* Extent of disease (number of people who are sick) in the community;
* Amount of worker absenteeism in your business or organization;
* Impact of disease on workforce populations that are vulnerable and at higher risk (e.g., pregnant women, employees with certain chronic medical conditions that put them at increased risk for complications of influenza); and
* Other factors that may affect employees' ability to get to work, including school dismissals or closures due to high levels of illness in children or school dismissals.
Employers need to plan now to be able to get current information on these indicators from state and local health departments in each community where they have a business presence and to respond spontaneously to the changing reality on the ground. Employers with more than one business location are advised to provide local managers with the authority to take appropriate actions outlined in their business pandemic plan based on the condition in each locality.