If you’re like most people, you know more than you ever wanted to about swine flu — or under the more scientific name the World Health Organization is now using: Influenza A(H1n1). The name change is an effort to limit the confusion over any connection to pigs or pig products. Besides the unfortunate name — swine flu has no connection to pigs other than having some swine flu genetic sequences. The name change by the WHO wasn’t in time to stop hurried bans on U.S. pork, and a tumble of 10% in hog prices last week.
A recent Harvard School of Public Health poll found that 17% of those surveyed were avoiding Mexican restaurants or grocery stores. This too is unnecessary.
As you’ve no doubt noticed, mainstream media reports are constant and intended to alarm. As of today 500 schools in the U.S. have been closed, though more closing may come. There have been cancellations of high school sporting events and track and field competitions, even proms in southern states, as well as Fort Worth’s annual Mayfest, expected to bring 200,000 visitors to the area during the four day event.
Not surprisingly, Vice President Biden’s unfortunate comments on the risks of travel using mass transit, a mere 12 hours after his President urged calm, only added to the confusion and fear. Still the World Health Organization continues to make no restriction on travel of any kind, or suggest the closing of borders. Interesting that Continental Airlines, the nation’s biggest air carrier to Mexico, is cutting back flights by 40%, but will still serve all 29 Mexican destinations.
It’s time like these when the Internet becomes a valuable resource for all of us — both the CDC and WHO have websites where you can go to get the latest flu details… without the hype. As of today the U.S. has 286 lab confirmed cases of swine flu, while around the world 21 countries have reported a total of 1085 cases. A total of 16 deaths (25 in Mexico, still 1 in the U.S.) have been reported so far. The situation is changing rapidly, and there are frequent updates as events warrant.
The good news seems to be that the strain, while spreading widely. may not be as severe as first feared. Experts already know that this flu does not contain some of the genes that made the 1918 Spanish flu so deadly.
Staying informed keeps you from being taken in by the panic… instead you show yourself to be a calm, knowledgeable resource. A clear head in a crisis. No matter what business you’re in… or what you do, this is a good thing.
Experts are convinced we’ll be able to create a vaccine for A(H1N1)… work is already underway. The trouble is, vaccine making and distributing isn’t a quick process… not to mention the calculated risk scientists take every year in choosing which strains of flu to protect against. The earliest we’re likely to see any type of A(H1N1) vaccine is four to six months… this fall perhaps.
In the meantime, what can you do to keep yourself, your employees and your customers healthy? Here are some common sense suggestions from the experts.
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, for at least a chorus of Happy Birthday. If you aren’t able to use soap and water, hand sanitizers are an excellent choice, available in small bottles, as clips or pens, or even in handy sprayers.
- If you feel a cough or a sneeze coming, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue and dispose of it right away. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or your armpit.
- Stay away from anyone who has a cough or a fever, is sneezing or is complaining of flu-like symptoms. If you must be around someone who is ill, wash your hands thoroughly after any contact with them, or use hand sanitizer. Don’t drink from their cup. share utensils or use their phone.
- Encourage employees to stay home if they are ill or dealing with flu-like symptoms, you might want to provide them with a helpful cold-n-flu kit to speed their recovery. Being short staffed for a few days is better than spreading sickness to your entire workforce.
- If you start developing flu-like symptoms, don’t push yourself to go to work, or try and wait it out. Call your doctor for advice or an appointment, especially if you’ve traveled to Mexico recently or have another underlying health condition.
You also might want to consider some of these suggestions for addressing the concerns of customers or clients as you run your business during the outbreak…
- Wipe down your phone, keyboard, mouse, door handles, countertops and any other often touched surface at least once a day with an antibacterial wipe or other cleaning solution to keep these surfaces clean.
- Keep antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer and tissues on hand for everyone to use.
- Post links to the CDC or WHO on your website, or be sure walk in customers can see the latest news… display the pages on a laptop or print out reports if you like.
- Cleanliness in the places customers and clients can see goes a long way toward reassuring them about the places they can’t. Restaurants, bars and coffee shops must be especially aware of this now… keep restrooms tidy, enforce hand washing for all employees and post your cleaning process or health certification for all to see.
- Try not to create confined spaces with lots of people, some of whom might not know they are sick yet. If you own a movie theater, conference space or other gathering place, focus on air circulation and keeping things sparkling clean.
Naturally it’s scary to think of a microscopic organism, moving at will across the world, sending so many of us strong, healthy, far-more-advanced creatures to our beds… feeling miserable. It’s hard to imagine something so small can really be that powerful. And yet it can.
Our power comes not from our size… our complexity or our technology, but rather our innate ability to face down fear with facts and move forward. This is what we all must do now.