August 20, 2009

Government Calls On Employers To Help Fight Swine Flu

US regulators are sending a message to employers this fall: discourage employees with flu-like symptoms from coming into work and vaccinate those who are at higher risk of infection.

The move is among new measures by the US government in an effort to reduce the spread of swine flu and seasonal flu this fall.

"If an employee stays home sick, it is not only the best thing for his health, but it is also the best thing for his co-workers," said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

The H1N1 virus pandemic is expected to worsen with the arrival of autumn weather.

Officials laid out other measures such as sneezing or coughing on sleeves or arms rather than hands, as well as the regular use of hand sanitizer to reduce the spread of the virus.

"We hope that employers will do some outreach to employees," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

"We are now asking the business community to be proactive and do some planning too," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

"Plans need to be put into place now for teleworking and working in place," Locke said during a press conference on Wednesday.

"The government can't do this on its own," Locke said. "For this effort to be successful we need businesses to do their part."

The government has recommended that employers take steps to ensure the least amount of people becomes infected. These steps include a reduction of business travel and in-person meetings and possibly increased distance between workstations.

Seasonal and H1N1 vaccines are underway from US drug companies AstraZeneca's MedImmune unit, CSL, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Novartis AG and Sanofi-Aventis SA, according to Reuters.

Additionally, Australia announced Thursday that it would begin swine flu vaccinations next month.

"I think it's anticipated by the middle or end of September we will be starting to vaccinate the priority groups that, of course, are the most vulnerable," Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.


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