Viral Outbreaks

Protect Your Workplace

Viral outbreaks of diseases like COVID-19, Influenza, Ebola and Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) can spread quickly with devastating consequences. Awareness is crucial in protecting yourself, your family and your employees and ensuring your organization continues operations.

According to the CDC, the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, spreads very easily from person to person, especially in situations where close contact with others is unavoidable. The CDC outlines how COVID-19 can also be spread by airborne transmission through small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for as long as a few hours. Older adults, people with certain existing medical conditions, pregnant women, people with certain disabilities, those who struggle with drug and substance abuse, are among the people who need to take extra precautions when it comes to protecting themselves against COVID-19.  In addition, COVID-19 disproportionately impacts “at-risk” and underserved communities.

Symptoms of the coronavirus include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Nausea or vomiting or diarrhea 

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2-14 days after exposure to the virus, and is updating the list of possible symptoms as they are discovered and recorded. To protect yourself and others against contracting COVID-19, individuals are encouraged to wear an approved protective face mask, practice social distancing by giving at lease six feet of space between others, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands and other surfaces in your home frequently. 

According to the CDC, other diseases, like Ebola, are spread through contact with blood and other body fluids, and are not likely to affect most workplaces. Those at highest risk for Ebola are healthcare workers as well as family members and friends in close contact with those who are sick or have died from Ebola.

Illnesses such as the respiratory infection EV-D68 are spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or touches a surface that is touched by someone else, and are more likely to spread throughout a workplace.

Seasonal influenza is more common and widespread. Flu season typically begins when cold weather strikes and can last into spring. For many people, the seasonal flu is a mild illness, but for others it can result in serious infections or hospitalization. Influenza is also spread through coughing, sneezing and talking, however, there are vaccines available. Health professionals recommend a yearly seasonal flu vaccine.

In addition to seasonal flu there are other types of influenza including swine flu and avian flu. Travelers should use increased caution and preventative measures when visiting locations where flu outbreaks are occurring.

While there are currently no vaccines to prevent these particular illnesses, there are a number of preventive actions you can take to keep yourself, your family and your employees safe, and business operating as usual.
  prescription medications

Share Prevention Strategies with Employees

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitizer if you can’t wash your hands
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wear an approved mask over your nose and mouth that is secure under your chin. 
  • Avoid close contact with those who are ill.
  • Clean and disinfect common areas and frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve, not your hand.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid traveling to areas affected by a viral outbreak.
  • Know the symptoms and consult your doctor if you have them (or if you have contact with someone who does).

Protect Employees and Plan for Business Continuity

  • Communicate the company pandemic/epidemic plan to all employees and ensure they are trained on it.
  • Establish a continuity plan for employee absenteeism, and consider flexible schedules or telecommuting.
  • Utilize teleconferencing or online meetings in place of large, in-person gatherings.
  • Cancel non-essential travel to areas affected by an outbreak.
  • Compile contact information for employees’ emergency contacts, clients, the public health department and police/fire/paramedics.
  • Have masks, gloves and cleaning agents available at your site.
  • Monitor news coverage and public health information.
  • Encourage employees who are ill to stay out of the workplace. 

For more information on viral outbreaks...

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization