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You are here: Home > First Aid & Safety Information > Pandemic Information
What is a Pandemic?
Click here to buy Pandemic Protective equipment!The term "Pandemic" refers to an infectious disease occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population. For example, if Avian Influenza were to break out in several continents simultaneously, affecting a majority of the populations of various countries, it would be classified as a Pandemic. An Epidemic is similar, affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time. For instance, the Bubonic Plague of the 14th Century is usually considered an epidemic because it infected roughly one third of central Europe's population, but was not active in a larger area.

What is Swine Flu?
Swine Influenza (swine flu, also known as "Hybrid Flu," "Mexico Flu," and "Snoutbreak") H1N1 is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Infection can be spread from pigs to humans, and from human to human. Swine Flu cannot be contracted from eating properly cooked pork, ham, or bacon.
The symptoms of Swine Flu are similar to Seasonal Flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. The new human vaccine for the virus is becoming available in more and more places, but is still in relatively short supply. As of October, 2009, the CDC recommends that the following people be first in line:

  1. Pregnant women
  2. Those in households with babies six months old or younger
  3. Health-care workers
  4. Everyone from six months to 24 years old
  5. People ages 25 to 64 with conditions like asthma

What is Avian/Bird Flu?
Avian flu is caused by influenza viruses that occur naturally among wild birds. Low pathogenic Avian Flu is common in birds, including chickens, other poultry and wild birds such as ducks and causes few problems. Highly pathogenic H5N1 is deadly to domestic fowl, can be transmitted from birds to humans, and is deadly to humans. There is virtually no human immunity and human vaccine availability is very limited.

What is Seasonal Flu?
Seasonal (or common) flu is a respiratory illness that can be transmitted person to person. Most people have some immunity, and a vaccine is available.

What do Phase Alert Levels mean?

Inter-Pandemic Phase
New Virus In Animals; No Human Cases
Low risk of human cases
Higher risk of human cases
Pandemic Alert
New Viruses Causes Human Cases
No or very limited human-to-human transmission
Evidence of increased human-to-human transmission
Evidence of significant human-to-human transmission
Efficient and sustained human-to-human transmission

What can I do to avoid infection?

  • First and most important: wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are popular, but the CDC still recommends soap and warm water as your first line of defense.
  • Regardless of how clean you think your hands are, try to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. The main portals of entry for the virus are the eyes and throat, so resist any temptations to touch your face when not eating or bathing. Gargling a warm salt water rinse (or antibacterial mouthwash) and swabbing the nostrils with salt water can greatly decrease the proliferation of the virus.
  • Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Also, boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamin C.
  • Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you do come into close contact with someone who is infected or suspected of being infected, we recommend P100 respirators and protective gloves.
  • And don't forget: throw away your used tissues, and at home, try to use a separate bathroom that is cleaned daily with disinfectant, if possible.

More information from The Omaha World Herald.

What should businesses do to prepare for a possible pandemic?
Just as with preparedness for possible severe storms, fires, earthquakes, or terrorism, there's a lot you can do to make sure you're not broadsided and left scrambling if a flu virus or other pandemic should occur. Here is a list of steps all businesses can take to prepare:

  1. Someone within your organization should begin by identifying essential functions and individuals (including employees, suppliers, and contractors) that would be needed to maintain business operations during a pandemic.
  2. Identify people who could take over these essential functions if necessary.
  3. Consider alternative sources for supplies and other outside services in case your normal channels are unavailable.
  4. Establish an emergency communications plan with key contacts, chain of communications, and processes for tracking and communicating employee status. Consider hotlines and dedicated websites for communicating information in a timely and efficient way to employees, customers, suppliers, and vendors, both inside and outside the workplace.
  5. Gather up-to-date and reliable sources of information on the pandemic from public health, emergency management sources and pay attention to their guidance.
  6. Plan for how to safely continue business operations or safely evacuate employees if essential services, such as power, water, and public transportation, are interrupted.
  7. Forecast and allow for employees absences during a pandemic. They could need to be out because of their own illness, a family memberís illness, quarantines, and school or business closures. Click here to take a quick Pandemic Quiz!
  8. Establish policies to cover:
    1. Employee compensation and sick-leave absences, non-punitive and liberal leave is recommended to encourage workers to stay home when ill
    2. When previously ill employees can return to work
    3. Telecommuting and flexible work hours
    4. How to respond when employees who have been exposed to the pandemic flu are suspected to be ill or become ill at work
    5. Restrictions on business travel to affected geographic areas
  9. Develop guidelines to help minimize the frequency of face-to-face contact among workers and between workers and customers. Consider seating in meetings, office layout, shared workstations, and hand-shaking practices.
  10. Notify employees of ways to reduce the spread of germs, such as frequent hand washing and respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette
  11. Provide infection-control supplies at all worksites, including hand hygiene products, tissues, and wastebaskets.
  12. Evaluate how you can assure that employees with have access to healthcare services if a pandemic occurs.
  13. Supply employees with educational materials about the pandemic, including signs and symptoms of illness and how it's transmitted.
  14. Have an employee assistance plan in place to address employee fears and anxieties.
  15. Educate employees about your pandemic preparedness plan.
For more information, visit OSHA.gov, EPA.gov, and CDC.gov

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