As Flu Season Arrives, Is Your Business Prepared for Possibility of a Pandemic?

Nurse giving man vaccination

Flu season is fast approaching and many businesses are taking preventative measures to help keep their workforces healthy by offering flu shots. In many health care and long-term care settings, employers are making such shots mandatory to avoid the risk of their employees passing the flu along to their co-workers or their patients.

For the 2017-2018 flu season, the CDC recommends only injectable flu vaccines be used. This year’s vaccines will protect against the three or four viruses that research suggests will be most prevalent. The nasal spray vaccine is not recommended for use during this year’s flu season because of concerns about its effectiveness. Check out this CDC fact sheet for more information about this year’s flu season. For additional materials to promote flu awareness, including posters, graphics and videos at your workplace, click here.

Protecting Against Pandemics

While researchers do their best to identify potential flu strains, there’s always the risk that influenza viruses in other animal populations could “jump” to humans and be spread human to human, leading to a worldwide pandemic. These types of viruses are concerning as most humans may have no immunity to the new virus. They also play the greatest risk of causing a potential infectious disease disaster of significant magnitude because of our limited ability to control and respond to it. If a pandemic were to strike, it could cause significant loss of life as well as impact the economy due to individuals missing work or school because of their own illness or a family member’s.

Local, state and federal governments have recently put much effort into formulating pandemic preparedness plans.  Industry, hospitals, clinics and other health care organizations should develop business response and continuity plans to prepare for a potential pandemic. Pandemic preparedness information can be found from the World Health Organization, and additional information can be found at the Centers for Disease Control. Weekly flu trends in the U.S. can be found here.

Notable Pandemics During Last 100 Years

1918 – H1N1 virus; infected 500 million people (a third of the world’s population at the time) and responsible for anywhere from 50 million to 100 million deaths worldwide, 675,000 of which were in the U.S.

1957-1958 – H2N2 virus; also known as Asian flu as it was first reported in Singapore in 1957. It caused up to 2 million deaths worldwide, nearly 70,000 in the U.S.

1968 – H3N2 virus; first noted in U.S. in September of that year. The estimated number of deaths was 1 million worldwide, about 100,000 in the U.S.

2009 – H1N1 virus; first reported in U.S. in spring 2009. The estimated number of deaths was between 151,700 and 575,400 people.