Much of the news coverage of the 2014 West African Ebola Outbreak is targeted toward health officials—how to transport patients, how to care for patients, even how to dispose of patients’ bodies—along with some superficial guidance on how to reduce personal exposure to the virus. To date, there has been little discussion on what to do in a business setting should an employee, coworker, tenant, or client be suspected of contracting the disease.
Here, we have outlined three simple ways to prepare for the unlikely event of Ebola arriving at your company’s door.
Be Aware of the Signs
Unfortunately, most of the early symptoms of Ebola resemble similar symptoms of common viral diseases, such as skin rashes and red eyes. However, if it is reasonable to assume a person has interacted with someone exposed to Ebola or has had direct contact with the disease, healthcare officials like the CDC and emergency services should be involved immediately. Early detection is one of the surest ways to reduce the spread of the disease.
Recognizing symptoms is only part of the solution to reducing the spread of Ebola or any infectious disease. Doing what you can to prevent it from coming to the United States in the first place is a primary method for reducing the spread. Knowledge of employee travel plans, client or customer interactions and meetings, and customer or clients travel can help in the planning and decrease the likelihood of handling contaminated goods, working with infected people, or both. In fact, company travel policies should include procedures for returning employees to be cleared by their physicians if travel to Africa is unavoidable.
In the event that anyone in an office or shared workspace displays any symptoms of Ebolavirus, it is in the best interest of keeping your people safe to initiate alternate plans for continued operations.
Plan for a Disease-Related Incident
To be ready to respond to Ebola or any other threat that may impact your workplace, ensure that your organization has in place an incident management plan. This plan should include steps to manage impacts to your operations, manage customer and client communications, and coordinate employee support.
Helpful tips for incident management plans include:
- Establishing an incident communications plan that includes how to communicate with next of kin, emergency services, and world media,
- Documenting how impacted business processes will be managed, and
- Ensuring employees are aware of the plan and trained on what’s expected of them.
Once your incident management plan is in place, practice, practice, practice. What good is a plan if no one knows how to use it?
Education is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of diseases. Inform your business clients or customers of your incident management plan, offer training, and implement strategies for a hygienic work environment. Ebola may never reach endemic levels in your area, but recognizing the signs, having a strong plan in place, and being health conscious will offer you greater success in the event that it or any other infectious disease heads your way.