Flu fears spread

Flu fears spread

October 14th, 2009 by Brian Lazenby in Business

Staff Photo by Lesley Onstott Employees of North American Credit Services use hand sanitizer Monday that is placed throughout the offices in an effort to combat germs during flu season.

Staff Photo by Lesley Onstott Employees of North American...

Area businesses are heeding advice by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are preparing for what could be one of the worst flu seasons in decades.

Joel Henderson, spokesman for North American Credit Services, said the 300-employee health care billing and debt collection business has placed hand sanitizer at all the entrances and exits in the 2810 Walker Road facility.

"Supplies are definitely in high demand," he said.

This week, North American Credit Services began offering free flu shots to employees as well as including tips and suggestions for avoiding the flu and CDC flu statistics in the company newsletter.

J.Ed Marston, spokesman for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber recently held a seminar to help businesses plan for a flu season that could mean large, widespread absenteeism by employees battling symptoms or comforting children who are.

The Chamber also has partnered with Chattanooga State to produce an interview-style video with Nancy Hatch Woodward, a freelance health care writer.

The video will be distributed to all Chamber members and explains facts about both the standard influenza virus and the H1N1 virus, known as swine flu. The video also will provide information about how businesses can create a continuity plan should absenteeism become a problem.

"We are trying to raise awareness about any unconsidered impact," Mr. Marston said. "People may have to stay at home with sick children or have to stay out longer than expected for fear of contaminating others."

The CDC encourages businesses to review their flu plans to combat employee outages. If they don't have a flu plan, they should create one, said Llewyn Grant, CDC spokesman.

Jim Sabourin, spokesman for Unum Group, said the 2,800 local employee insurance company provides hand sanitizer and flu shots but also has plans in place should a large number of employees be forced to call in sick.

"We have the ability for employees to work from home and have access to all our systems and our customers' information too," he said. "We encourage people not to come to work if they are sick, and we are actively communicating with our employees about ways to prevent the flu."

The CDC asks employers to encourage all workers to receive flu vaccinations as well as a number of other tips to help prevent catching or spreading the flu virus, Mr. Grant said.

Employees should clean and wipe down their work stations regularly, and cleaning crews should be asked to wipe down all countertops, door knobs and common areas.

"For employees that travel, they should constantly assess their health, and if they find any signs of influenza they should contact a health official and should be discouraged from traveling," Mr. Grant said. "Traveling would increase the risk and complication for others that may be traveling as well."