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CO: Pandemic Influenza planning for businesses

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  • CO: Pandemic Influenza planning for businesses


    Pandemic Influenza planning for businesses

    Posted: May 9, 2008 08:51 PM
    Updated: May 9, 2008 08:51 PM

    When you hear the word "pandemic", your first thoughts might be of the strain on medical resources. But a pandemic, like other disasters could also threaten the economy and the way companies do business.

    That's why the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is holding Pandemic Preparedness sessions with business leaders across the state.

    They say bird flu or a similar pandemic could hit anywhere with little warning. If that happens, they want to be sure Colorado's businesses can continue to provide the goods and services the public relies on.

    During a presentation Friday for Grand Junction Business Professionals, speakers explained that during a pandemic about 35 percent of the general public could become ill. But, they say about 40 percent of a communities workforce could be absent. Missing workers may be staying home to care for loved ones or skipping work because of fear.

    "A pandemic is different than the routine flu. It goes on in waves, it goes on for longer periods of time and no one is really immune. So, we want businesses to come up with various plans on how to deal with those kinds of things; cross training, developing a plan in advance," Dr. Maryann Motza explains.

    Friday's meeting was the second in a series. Another meeting was held last Friday in Montrose. Similar sessions will be held across Colorado through July. After those meetings, the Department of Labor will outline recommendations for new statutes or legislative changes.

  • #2
    Re: CO: Pandemic Influenza planning for businesses


    5/19/2008 8:49:00 AM
    Pandemic flu prospect drives economic planning

    By Arlene Shovald - Special to The Mail

    The prospect of pandemic flu is so frightening representatives from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment are developing a plan to maintain economy, trade and business in the event influenza strikes.

    Maryann Motza, Ph.D., and Dean Condor, M.A., met with business representatives May 14 at the Colorado WorkForce Center in Salida to discuss local planning for pandemic flu.

    "We've been conducting these meetings throughout the state and are asking any suggestions be forwarded to us by mid-July when we will put together a plan for businesses if pandemic flu hits," Motza said.

    Suggestions may be e-mailed to or dean.conder@!

    It was the second workshop held in Salida.

    Pandemic flu occurs when a new flu virus appears around the world. There is no natural immunity for it and no vaccine.

    "All flu starts with birds," Condor said. "What happens in a pandemic is the virus transfers from birds to animals, then mutates and affects humans."

    Vaccines are not available because there is no way of predicting which strain of flu will be involved.

    However, employers should encourage workers to get the annual flu shot because if that particular virus in the flu vaccine is part of the pandemic virus, it could have some effect, officials said.

    Colorado has experienced three pandemic influenza outbreaks in the last century - 1918, 1957 and 1968. The 1918 pandemic resulted in 40 million deaths worldwide.

    As society becomes more mobile, with international travel common, chances of pandemic flu reaching Colorado is increased.

    Specific effects of pandemic flu on the business community was the subject of the meeting Wednesday.

    "It is important for businesses to have a plan to deal with problems they will encounter in a pandemic," Motza said.

    "We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. The hope is we will have a plan and never have to use it. But after the governor or president declares a pandemic, it will go into action."

    Fuel shortages are a potential problem. Rationing to preserve fuel for emergency vehicles is possible. Gasoline may be in shorter supply and plans must be made for distribution if refinery employees are sick or otherwise unavailable to perform their jobs.

    In a pandemic, simultaneous outbreaks would limit availability of mutual aid.

    "With the recent salmonella problem in Alamosa, the state stepped in and helped," Motza said.

    "In a pandemic, that would not be possible. There would be no outside help because everyone would be dealing with the problem in their communities."

    Even if a worker is not ill, he or she may be unable to work because of caring for a sick family member or because day care centers and schools are closed. Social distancing will become critical to prevent spread of the disease.

    Some solutions to avoid direct human-to-human contact include having employees work from home and using direct deposit for checks.

    Union contracts may have to be temporarily suspended to allow cross training of workers to perform other employee jobs.

    Other considerations are Workman's Compensation problems that could result if an employee feels he or she contracted the disease at work - or possible half-salaries for absent workers.

    Most important is for employers to develop a sick leave program encouraging employees to stay home if they are ill.

    "Employees who become ill in the beginning and survive will be your most important resources as the pandemic continues," Motza said. "They will have developed an immunity and be able to work."

    A pandemic is estimated to last about 18 months and strike in two or three "waves" before finally dissipating. It is anticipated 40 percent of the work force would be unable to perform and the customer base of a business would be down about 40 percent, with the smaller businesses suffering the worst impact.

    "Those businesses which have developed plans for pandemic flu are encouraged to share them with other businesses and with the Department of Public Health," Motza said.

    "We're hoping these plans never have to be used, but communities must recognize the inevitability of a pandemic."