(Reuters) - As a the world edges closer to an H1N1 influenza pandemic, here are some things individuals, businesses and organizations can do to prepare:
* Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay at home when you are sick or have flu symptoms. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Wash your hands. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
* Talk over what your family would do in a pandemic. Who would care for children or people with special needs if everyone is sick? Keep basic health supplies on hand: soap or alcohol-based hand wash, fever reducers, fluid with electrolytes and tissues.
* Because schools may close, consider pooling child care resources with neighbors, and ask schools about their back-up plans.
* Talk to your employer about telecommuting or working from home. Public transportation may be disrupted, so consider car-pooling options for all transportation needs.
* Make sure pandemic plans address long-term absenteeism rates. Ask what are the company’s essential functions — accounting, payroll, and information technology — and identify people who perform them. Cross-train employees on these functions.
* Plan for interruptions of essential government services like sanitation, water, power and transportation, or disruptions to the food supply.
* Update sick leave and family and medical leave policies and communicate with employees about the need to stay home from work. Expand tools that enable employees to work from home with appropriate security and network access to applications.
* Maintain a healthy work environment, with good air circulation. Post tips on how to stop the spread of germs at work. Ensure wide and easy access to hand sanitizers.
* Tell employees about the threat of pandemic flu and the steps the company is taking to prepare for it.
COMMUNITY AND FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS:
* Consider how an influenza pandemic would affect regular activities and services. Think about circumstances that may require you to increase, decrease or stop the services your organization delivers.
* Update sick leave and family and medical leave policies so staffers will not be penalized for personal illness or for caring for sick family members during a pandemic.
* Instruct volunteers and employees to remain home until they are well.
* See if volunteers and staff have cross-over skills like nursing or mental health counseling that could be used during a health crisis, and make that information known to local health authorities.
* Modify activities that involve person-to-person contact, such as religious rites that involve sharing drink from common glasses or holding hands.
Source: Trust for America’s Health
More ideas can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov/
Editing by Maggie Fox