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October 7, 2009:
 
 
   
Swine flu disaster plan could be just what the doctor ordered for small businesses
 
By Susan Burgess
 
FORT PIERCE — A howling hurricane and swine flu can shutter a small business equally fast, an expert told more than 100 small-business representatives Wednesday at an H1H1 swine flu symposium.

But just as a hurricane disaster plan can help a business stay in business after the storm, a solid disaster plan ahead of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic may keep small businesses healthy, employment law attorney Carrie Cherveny said.

Cherveny, from the West Palm Beach law firm of Schwarzberg & Associates, and administrators from the state and Treasure Coast health departments offered swine flu advice to business owners and managers at the Corporate and Community Training Institute at Indian River State College.

According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety based in Tampa, about 25 percent of businesses that close because of disaster will never reopen.

Effective planning can minimize disruptions and help protect the health of employees, Cherveny said.

Current Centers for Disease Control advice to employers is to tell sick employees to stay home for at least 24 hours after they have no fever and have not taken any fever-reducing medication.

Employers should begin by reviewing their existing health policies, Cherveny said. Understanding the legal requirements of providing for the health and safety of employees is important.

For example, employers in home health care may need to provide masks and other equipment, she said.

New rules can be made, such as no sharing of keyboards or telephones, Cherveny said. Hand sanitizer can be made available and reminders posted about washing hands and how to cough or sneeze without spreading bacteria through the air.

Kathy Beatty, clinical director at Harbor Place Home Health, said the symposium helped her.

“You read so much in so many places, and this pulled it all together for me,” she said.

Tangela Williams, nursing supervisor at the Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center in Indiantown, said she deals with infection control, and was seeking additional information that would help prevent the spread of disease.

“It’s good to know what they are telling people to do in the three-county area,” she said. “I am finding that we have a lot of this already in place, but what I am hearing today is giving me guidelines and a format for our plans.”

The state’s population of 19 million will have 11 million doses of swine flu vaccine available by January, said Jean Kline, director of the division of emergency medical operations at the state health department in Tallahassee.
 
 
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