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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Adult and Senior Health Preventing Swine Flu at Work Place

Preventing Swine Flu at Work Place

The management, employers, and employees can take some precautions and work practices to minimize the risk of the spread of novel influenza A (H1N1) flu in the workplace. In addition, general prevention and preparedness strategies should be put in place in case a worker becomes ill.


The symptoms of swine flu are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A number of people with swine flu also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. It is not possible to distinguish swine flu from seasonal flu based on symptoms. Swine flu is transmitted in much the same way as seasonal flu, i.e. mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with swine flu. Another mode of transmission is through infected surfaces.

The management, employers, and employees can take some precautions and work practices to minimize the risk of the spread of novel influenza A (H1N1) flu in the workplace. In addition, general prevention and preparedness strategies should be put in place in case a worker becomes ill.

 Some important personal tips in preventing Swine Flu.

  • Wash hands with soap before each meal.
  • Do not touch your mouth and nostrils except during food and washing face.
  • Do cough or sneeze in the fold of your elbow.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm water with salt in it at least three times a day.
  • Clean your nostrils with warm water with salt at least two times a day.
  • Avoid crowds or closed spaces to reduce the chances of exposure to virus.
  • Covering the nose and mouth with masks shall not help in preventing the virus attack.

Steps the management can take for preventing swine flu at the workplace:

  • Provide flexible and non-penalizing leave policies that encourage sick workers to stay home and away from the workplace.
  • Ask employees to stay at home if they are sick. They should stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
  • Display posters at the workplace that address and remind workers about proper hand washing, respiratory hygiene, and cough etiquette.
  • Send out written material such as E-mails on swine flu (H1N1) flu in a language understood by everyone in the workplace. Check with the local public health authorities to ensure that you are providing appropriate and up-to-date information.
  • Make sure that sufficient facilities for hand washing are available in lobbies, corridors, and restrooms. Provide easy access to alcohol-based hand sanitizers in common workplace areas.
  • Make sure that adequate supply of tissues and disinfectants is available for employees to wipe their work surfaces. Employees should be provided an appropriate disposal container to discard used tissues and wipes.
  • Ask the cleaning staff to disinfect commonly-touched surfaces in the workplace, such as work stations, counter tops, door knobs, and bathroom surfaces by wiping them down with a household disinfectant. Flu virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person for up to 2-8 hours after being deposited on the surface.
  • Employees who are well but who have a family member with swine flu should be allowed to attend work as usual. These employees should monitor their health every day and notify their supervisor and stay home if they become ill. 
  • Ask employees who have an underlying medical condition or who are pregnant to call their health care provider for advice, because they might need to receive prophylactic influenza antiviral medicines.
  • Identify and designate one person as the a coordinator for dealing with novel influenza A (H1N1) flu issues and impact at the workplace, which should include contacting local health personnel in advance and developing and implementing protocols for response to ill individuals.
  • Make sure that the human resources department has up-to-date travel related recommendations and communicate these recommendations to employees who may have upcoming business-related travel.
  • Make backup plans for the possibility of unscheduled leave in case employees who are sick need to stay at home to care for themselves or for their family members with the flu.
  • Arrange for brief education and communication sessions for the employees so that they are well aware of swine flu facts and company policies and resources for people who become sick with the flu.

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