Coronavirus Infections are Skyrocketing – How can Employers Take Action?

The first U.S. case of the coronavirus spreading throughout China was confirmed last week in Washington state. Since then, the infection has scattered to a number of states. As anxiety and debate over the proper precautions heighten among the public, what actions should employers be taking to ease concerns? To start, they should share the recommendations below and help employees take the right action. They should also consider encouraging people to work from home if the virus spreads to their office location and allow people to delay any travel particularly to areas with high levels of disease.

  • What are the symptoms of Coronavirus? The symptoms include coughing, sneezing, fever and difficulty breathing. The transmission of the virus is thought to be through being in close contact with someone who is actively coughing and sneezing.
  • What can an individual do to prevent contracting Coronavirus? The top recommendations are to wash hands frequently and to not touch your hands to your mouth and nose, to stay away from those who are ill and to be sure that you have a flu shot. The most recent study of the effectiveness of masks shows that they can be partially helpful particularly when the person with an infection is wearing the mask. They need to be worn correctly covering the mouth and nose. 
  • What should a person do who has the symptoms of the infection? If they have not traveled to China or been in close proximity to someone who has the infection it is likely that they have a cold or the flu. They should contact their healthcare provider for advice and stay away from others.
  • What if you have been in contact with someone who gets the infection? Monitor your temperature twice a day and any symptoms that develop. You should do that for two weeks to be sure that you have not developed the infection. You should contact your healthcare provider for instructions if you need to be tested. You should call before arriving at a healthcare facility to be sure that others are not exposed.

This virus is related to the viruses responsible for both the SARS and the MERS epidemics, so scientists have some understanding of what to expect although each new type has its own characteristics. China has implemented a travel restriction from the epicenter of the epidemic. Other countries such as the US have implemented screening tests and protocols for isolation for those with the virus and surveillance of anyone who had close contact with them.

Everyone should stay up to date with new recommendations from both the CDC and the WHO. New research on possible treatments and the development of a possible vaccine is underway and will be reported on these sites. To learn more on how employers are responding to this crisis, click here.

- written by Mary Kay O'Neill

Mary Kay O'Neill
by Mary Kay O'Neill

Partner, Clinical Services Consultant

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