The Wuhan coronavirus spreading from China is now likely to become a pandemic that circles the globe.
That’s according to many of the world’s leading infectious disease experts. Does it mean you should panic? Hardly. In the U.S., there have been just 12 confirmed cases as of the first week of February. At the same time, this season has seen more than 19 million influenza illnesses, resulting in more than 10,000 deaths. From the flu.
The takeaway? If employers aren’t worried about the impact of the flu on their workforce and productivity, they have even less reason to get worked up over this latest epidemic.
On the other hand, while U.S.-based employers need not panic about the effect on their workforce, this would be a good time to look at their sick leave and remote work policies and remind employees of expectations. Sick employees, whether suffering from the flu, a case of strep throat or even just a cold, should be encouraged to stay home.
The Business Group on Health recently offered the following tips:
- Educate and remind employees of essential prevention practices. Take this opportunity to remind employees of the common-sense measures they can take to prevent illness, including proper hand-washing, covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze, and ensuring their workplaces remain clean and sanitized. In addition, the Business Group recommends avoiding crowded places and limiting interaction with people who show symptoms of illness.
- Recognize symptoms. Coronavirus presents with symptoms similar to the cold or flu, such as fever, cough or trouble breathing. Regardless of the cause of such symptoms, encourage employees to stay home.
- Review your emergency preparedness plan. “Review your emergency response and pandemic protocols, including but not limited to your corporate telework policy,” the Business Group writes. “Be transparent with available information to your employees”
No one knows for sure, but a swift global response combined with implementation of preventive measures will likely quell the spread of Wuhan coronavirus before it has a significant impact on U.S. businesses. Most employers don’t need to lose any sleep over the issue. But it’s better to be safer than sorry, right?