[Excerpt] 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. A worldwide influenza pandemic could have a major effect on the global economy, including travel, trade, tourism, food, consumption and eventually, investment and financial markets. Planning for pandemic influenza by business and industry is essential to minimize a pandemic's impact. Companies that provide critical infrastructure services, such as power and telecommunications, also have a special responsibility to plan for continued operation in a crisis and should plan accordingly. As with any catastrophe, having a contingency plan is essential.
In the event of an influenza pandemic, employers will play a key role in protecting employees' health and safety as well as in limiting the impact on the economy and society. Employers will likely experience employee absences, changes in patterns of commerce and interrupted supply and delivery schedules. Proper planning will allow employers in the public and private sectors to better protect their employees and lessen the impact of a pandemic on society and the economy. As stated in the President’s National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, all stakeholders must plan and be prepared.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed this pandemic influenza planning guidance based upon traditional infection control and industrial hygiene practices. It is important to note that there is currently no pandemic; thus, this guidance is intended for planning purposes and is not specific to a particular viral strain. Additional guidance may be needed as an actual pandemic unfolds and more is known about the characteristics of the virulence of the virus, disease transmissibility, clinical manifestation, drug susceptibility, and risks to different age groups and sub- populations. Employers and employees should use this planning guidance to help identify risk levels in workplace settings and appropriate control measures that include good hygiene, cough etiquette, social distancing, the use of personal protective equipment, and staying home from work when ill. Up-to-date information and guidance is available to the public through the www.pandemicflu.gov website.