Officially, the flu season begins on the first of October and runs until spring. Even though the CDC says that this year’s flu is starting out a little bit milder than the two previous years, I know several people that are suffering through a nasty type of flu already this year. This stuff starts out with the usual fever and aches, and then turns into “cold” symptoms that hang on for weeks! We all know how nasty this is on a personal level, but a virulent long lasting flu like this can also really stress your business as well. So, let’s take a look at how the flu really works and what we can do about it.
First off, there are few real defenses against the flu if you are going to interact with other people. “Flu’s” are viruses that can infect you in several different ways and that mutate often and rapidly. The flu vaccine that is produced every year is really only devised to have some effect on the top three dominant flu strains of the year. The amount of effect they really have also depends on just how and how much each virus strain has mutated by the time you get the flu shot. So, although it is liable to help, don’t put too much faith in the flu vaccine.
So how can flu infect you? The most insidious way for the flu virus to spread is through the air in the form of “droplets”. When persons with the flu cough or sneeze into the air, large and very small droplets of liquid filled with virus travel through the air and can easily make their way into lungs or onto hands. Large droplets generally do not travel more than six feet but small “micro-droplets” can float through the air for some time and travel greater distances. Flu virus can also enter your body through your digestive system or eyes. If there is flu virus on your hands or food and you put them in your mouth, you can get the flu. If you have flu virus on your hands and you rub your eyes or nose, you can get the flu. So, what can you do to protect yourself from getting the flu or giving it to others?
The best thing you can do, even though it is a pain, is wash your hands. I mean wash your hands each time before you touch anything and put it in your mouth, or before you rub your eyes. Also, I wouldn’t eat food that has been sitting uncovered around where people have been coughing or sneezing.
There are also a number of different things that can kill microorganisms like flu viruses. Ultra violet radiation, such as direct sunlight, kills microorganisms almost instantly. Also, Microorganisms die quickly when they come in contact with hard, smooth, dry surfaces. And, microorganisms can be killed or removed by the use of soaps and other chemical cleaners such as hand sanitizing lotions or disinfectant sprays.
So how do you protect your business from the flu? When the flu is rampant in the community, protect yourself when you are in close public areas such as grocery stores, automobiles, airplanes or malls. Have your workers do any work remotely that they can. If they can VPN into the network securely and work from home, have them do so. If you are a financial institution, consider closing or restricting access to the lobby and doing as much business as possible via the drive up windows. Insist that employees that have the flu stay home. And finally, make sure that your business has good written operating procedures in place, and that your employees cross train with each other on a regular basis. This will be a real help in times of great absenteeism. Expect the best, but plan for the worst – the height of the flu season is just two or three months away!