Every year, up to 20 percent of the population in the United States contracts the flu virus. The effects of flu vary
from mild symptoms to severe illness and complications, including death. Disease experts have calculated that
once every 30 to 40 years, pandemic influenza affects people globally, resulting in a significantly greater number
of illness and deaths than the annual flu.
How flu spreads
Flu viruses spread in respiratory droplets through person-to-person or other close contact. Most adults can infect
others beginning one day before symptoms develop and from up to five to seven days after becoming sick. This
means that you can pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
Human influenza viruses generally can survive on surfaces for two to eight hours.
Good health habits
Maintaining good health habits is important to keep you healthy and to minimize the spread of the influenza
virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health organizations suggest exercising
regularly, getting enough rest and eating healthful balanced meals, in addition to a number of precautions to help
protect yourself and others from transmitting the flu. These precautions may include, but are not limited to:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Keep your distance from others to help protect them from getting sick too.
- Stay home when you are sick. Prevent others from catching your illness.
- Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands often and rub hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. If you do not have access to water and soap, use alcohol-based gels or hand sanitizers.
- Cover your mouth and nose. Use a tissue when coughing or sneezing to help prevent spreading the virus or, as the CDC suggests, sneeze or cough into your arm or sleeve. Viral droplets are less likely to spread doing this than coughing into your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
For additional information visit the CDC website. The information provided in this document by Travelers is intended for use as a guideline and is not intended as, nor does it constitute, legal or professional advice. Travelers does not warrant that adherence to, or compliance with, any recommendations, best practices, checklists, or guidelines will result in a particular outcome. In no event will Travelers, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, be liable in tort or in contract to anyone who has access to or uses this information for any purpose. Travelers does not warrant that the information in this document constitutes a complete and finite list of each and every item or procedure related to the topics or issues referenced herein. Furthermore, federal, state, provincial, municipal or local laws, regulations, standards or codes, as is applicable, may change from time to time and the user should always refer to the most current requirements. This material does not amend, or otherwise affect, the provisions or coverages of any insurance policy or bond issued by Travelers, nor is it a representation that coverage does or does not exist for any particular claim or loss under any such policy or bond. Coverage depends on the facts and circumstances involved in the claim or loss, all applicable policy or bond provisions, and any applicable law.
CDC recommends a three-step approach to fighting influenza (flu). The first and most important step is to get a flu vaccination each year. But if you get the flu, there are prescription antiviral drugs that can treat your illness. Early treatment is especially important for the elderly, the very young, people with certain chronic health conditions, and pregnant women. Finally, everyday preventive actions may slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu.
How does the flu spread?
Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose. Many other viruses spread these ways too.People infected with flu may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. That means you may be able to spread the flu to someone else before you know you are sick as well as while you are sick. Young children, those who are severely ill, and those who have severely weakened immune systems may be able to infect others for longer than 5-7 days.
What are everyday preventive actions?
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you or your child gets sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you (or your child) stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
- If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, follow public health advice. This may include information about how to increase distance between people and other measures.
What additional steps can I take at work to help stop the spread of germs that can cause respiratory illness, like flu?
- Find out about your employer’s plans if an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs and whether flu vaccinations are offered on-site.
- Routinely clean frequently touched objects and surfaces, including doorknobs, keyboards, and phones, to help remove germs.
- Make sure your workplace has an adequate supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes.
- Train others on how to do your job so they can cover for you in case you or a family member gets sick and you have to stay home.
- If you begin to feel sick while at work, go home as soon as possible.
For more information, please visit www.cdc.gov/flu or call 1-800-CDC-INFO
A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which there is little or no immunity in the human population begins to cause serious illness and then spreads easily person-to-person worldwide. Planning for pandemic influenza by business and industry is essential to minimize a pandemic’s impact.
The risk for infection can be reduced through a combination of actions. No single action provides complete protection, but a combined approach can help decrease the likelihood of transmission. To aid in pandemic contingency planning, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has suggested the following steps that every employer can take to reduce the risk of exposure to pandemic influenza in their workplace, which also applies to our chapter facilities:
- People who are sick with an influenza-like illness (ILI) (fever plus at least cough or sore throat and possibly other symptoms like runny nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea) should stay home and keep away from others as much as possible, including avoiding travel, for at least 24 hours after fever is gone. (Fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.)
- Encourage employees and members to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or with hand sanitizer if there is no soap or water available. Also, encourage employees and members to avoid touching their noses, mouths, and eyes.
- Encourage employees and residents to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or to cough and sneeze into their upper sleeves if tissues are not available. Employees and members should wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer after they cough, sneeze, or blow their noses.
- Employees should avoid close contact with their coworkers and residents. They should avoid shaking hands and always wash their hands after contact with others. Even if employees wear gloves, they should wash their hands upon removal of the gloves incase their hand(s) became contaminated during the removal process.
- Provide extra tissues and trash receptacles and a place to wash or disinfect hands for all guests, employees, and residents.
- Keep work surfaces, desks, computers, and other frequently touched surfaces clean. Use only disinfectants registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and follow all directions and safety precautions indicated on the label.
- Discourage employees and members from using other people’s phones, desks, laptops, or other tools and equipment.
- Minimize situations, such as in a meeting, where groups of people are crowded together. Use e-mail, phones, and text messages to communicate with each other. When meetings are necessary, avoid close contact by keeping a separation of at least 6 ft, where possible, and assure that there is proper ventilation in the meeting room.
- Reduce or eliminate unnecessary social interactions, which can be very effective in controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Reconsider all situations that permit or require employees, members, and visitors (including family members) to enter the facility. Chapters may want to consider restricting/eliminating guest visitation options during an influenza pandemic.
- Promote healthy lifestyles, including vaccination for seasonal flu, good nutrition, exercise, and smoking cessation. A person’s overall health impacts their body’s immune system and can affect their ability to fight off, or recover from, an infectious disease.
More detailed planning information is available from OSHA in Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic (OSHA 3327-02N). Information is also available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) at PandemicFlu.Gov. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a planning guide for small businesses.