Saturday, June 13, 2009

CDC Urges Review and Revision of Pandemic Business Continuity Plans

A staff writer for The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRP) wrote a piece yesterday about a teleconference CDC convened, during which the agency urged businesses to review their pandemic plans and modify them, as needed, to ensure there is enough flexibility to respond to a moderate or severe influenza pandemic.

As CARE continues to urge its country offices to do the same, there are some key points that can be taken from this article. Although it is a bit domestic in focus, I have pasted excerpts below which may be meaningful to many in the field. The article can be viewed in its entirety at:

Lisa Schnirring Staff Writer

"Jun 12, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – On the heels of yesterday's pandemic declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today urged businesses to review their pandemic plans to make sure they're flexible enough to respond to a moderate or severe pandemic.

...Anthony Fiore, MD, MPH, a medical epidemiologist in the CDC's influenza division, said the novel flu cases and hospitalizations are hitting younger people and children the hardest. "This is much of the workforce, as well as their children," he said.

... Fiore advised businesses to plan on using basic preventive measures as a fallback, such as encouraging employees to stay home when they're sick, cover their coughs, and wash their hands frequently.

Employees who have risk factors for flu complications, such as asthma, cardiac conditions, or pregnancy, should be advised to seek medical care quickly if they have flu symptoms, he said. Those who don't have risk factors and experience severe symptoms should also seek care.

[Lisa Koonin, MN, MPH, a senior adviser with the CDC's influenza coordination unit] reminded companies that the WHO's pandemic declaration wasn't based on severity, but on sustained transmission levels in different parts of the world. However, she advised groups to be alert for new flu developments by seeking out situation updates from public health agencies, which will help businesses align their practices with public health recommendations. She warned that the novel virus will affect different locations in different ways.

"There will be different pictures all around the world," Koonin said. "We need to be nimble and tailor our response based on that picture."

Employers should review their leave, pay, and benefits policies to determine if any adjustments are needed to allow employees to stay home for 7 to 10 days if they are sick with the novel flu or need to stay home to care for a sick family member, she said.

She advised the group to address business continuity concerns by identifying essential business functions and critical employees, planning for staffing redundancy for key positions, and assessing supply-chain and critical input issues. Koonin added that it's a good idea for businesses to ask suppliers to provide details about their pandemic plans.

…Some businesses also asked the CDC for clearer guidance on how long people with novel flu infections should stay home before returning to work. Fiore said the current guidance, issued out of an abundance of caution but without much scientific data, is 7 days or 24 hours after symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.

He said the CDC is actively examining its recommendation on how long to stay home and hopes to update its guidance within the next few weeks.”

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