Ebola. Although it seems unlikely that the US will see a widespread outbreak, consider some precautionary business measures.
The Ebola virus is a rare but deadly virus that spreads through the body, causing damage to the immune system and its organs. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), it kills up to 90% of people who are infected. Ebola spreads by contact with skin or bodily fluids of an infected person or animal or by touching contaminated objects like needles. You cannot get Ebola through air, water or food, and it isn’t as contagious as more common viruses like the cold or flu.
If you suspect an employee has been exposed, the EEOC has accepted addressing the issue with the employee for legitimate reasons. For example if an employer knows that an employee is returning from the West Africa region, they can send them for testing before they return to work to ensure the safety of the staff. In addition, employees do have the right to refuse entry into an area/facility that they believe may have been exposed.
Be prepared- This is a good time for companies to review their disaster recovery plans and update or implement accordingly. Review employee leave policies, with special attention to flexible work options and telecommuting. Cross training could be a viable consideration to help fill and complete tasks in case of a co-worker falling ill. Establish points of contact and make sure employees know where to find answers regarding their health care plan. It is ultimately the employers’ responsibility to ensure that all preventable measures are being enforced and adhered to, to minimize occupational risk.
Emergency plan– Business owners need to recognize and report symptoms and implement a method to isolate an employee who demonstrates symptoms. There should also be a sterilization method for PPE to prevent the virus from spreading. It’s important to know how your workers will get proper medical care and what information will be necessary to communicate to your staff while protecting the infected employee.
If you or your employees experience any symptoms including but not limited to: fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, weakness or loss of appetite, you should be seen by your treating physician or local hospital. Symptoms usually show up 2 to 21 days after infection. Ebola can be hard to diagnose, but don’t take chances if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.
Currently, there is no cure for Ebola, but there are many ways you can avoid catching the disease, which include: limiting travel where the virus is found, wearing gloves, masks, goggles whenever necessary and practicing careful hygiene including washing your hands with soap and water frequently or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
For more information, this link to the CDC provides more details. Call The Flanders Group if you have any questions.