There Are at Least 6 Suspected Cases of H1N1 at the CDC and Nearby Facilities
(CBS) CBS News has learned that there have been at least six suspected cases of the H1N1 flu among employees at the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and nearby facilities. Among the cases, workers in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion were notified by email from a supervisor on August 18th that one of their colleagues had a suspected but "not laboratory confirmed" case of the novel H1N1 flu. There were two other cases of possible swine flu in the emergency operations center at the Atlanta headquarters.
"We have had some cases among our own workforce," said Tom Skinner, the senior public affairs officer at CDC. But Skinner told CBS News he could not confirm the number of cases. "It's not like the employees are required to tell their supervisors that they have come down with H1N1. We're following the guidance we've recommended for other businesses."
When asked, Skinner said there is, "no systematic way for the CDC to know," how many of its employees have come down with this flu.
On August 19, the CDC updated its "Guidance to Business and Employers." It offers advice about how to prepare for a possible widespread outbreak of the new flu to companies around the country. It says specifically, "If an employee becomes ill at work, inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to influenza-like illness but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disability Act."
"Given what the CDC's own guidance says it's hard to understand how the notification could take place if CDC is not monitoring or tracking H1N1 cases in its workforce because they would not have that information," said Pam Gillis Gilbertz, local president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents approximately 1800 people at the CDC in Atlanta. "Are we going to go on rumor and hearsay or on an individual supervisor's judgment about whether an employee has flu-like symptoms and should go home?"
There are about 6500 employees and contractors working for the CDC in Atlanta.
Each week, the CDC produces a national surveillance report on incidents of H1N1 flu and posts it on their website.
As of August 28th, the CDC has tracked 8,843 cases of the virus and 556 deaths related to the disease. During the week that ended August 22nd the site notes that, "influenza activity remained stable or continued to decline in most areas of the U.S. However, activity appears to be increasing in the Southeast.