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Tips for companies and individuals on handling A-H1N1

PARKWAY Health, an international healthcare provider, has offered information and advice on handling the A-H1N1 flu.

Dr Jeffrey Staples, Parkway division president for China and North Asia, is an expert in public health, pandemic and crisis management and he discussed A-H1N1 at an American Chamber of Commerce function last week.

His observations:

H1N1 is predominately spread by droplets from the respiratory system, most commonly through coughing and sneezing. These droplets can remain infectious on a smooth hard surface like a door knob or tabletop for up to 48 hours; on soft, porous surfaces like a shirt sleeve for six hours, and on a person's hands for five minutes.

Do not assume the worst is over. No one knows yet if A-H1N1 will become a full-blown pandemic. The virus has already spread to more than 20 countries within a month, so be alert and vigilant.

Influenza viruses such as A-H1N1 are less stable in the hot summer months so there is less chance of widespread infections. However, there may be a heightened risk in autumn as temperatures cool.

Over the next two weeks a clearer picture will emerge as to how the virus is spreading but people should still take some precautions and educate themselves about the risk.

His Advice:

Businesses should prepare emergency management plans in case of an outbreak. These can include updating contact details for staff, methods for dealing with higher-than-normal absenteeism and increased workplace hygiene and safety policies. It may also include separating critical staff into teams and putting them in different locations and planning for disruptions to supply and distribution chains.

If households are concerned, they could consider stockpiling essential food and emergency supplies and medical items, including face masks.

Practice stringent personal hygiene and hand-washing before eating and after going out into public places. People should wash their hands as much as reasonably possible. Carry alcohol gel hand sanitizing products.

Everyone should practice cough etiquette. Don't cover your mouth with your hand because you will put droplets on your hand and potentially spread that to other surfaces or other people. Use a handkerchief or tissue.

If the virus were to spread to Shanghai, wearing personal face masks can stop the spread of droplets.

If cases were to emerge in Shanghai, households are advised to make sure their home is sterile by regularly wiping down surfaces with a bleach and alcohol solution and cleaning hands before touching children and others. In the case of a full blown pandemic this would include using separate drinking glasses, cutlery and plates to minimize the risk of infection.

If A-H1N1 cases appear in Shanghai, businesses may want to implement a phase of their emergency plan, which could include providing masks to people working with the public and stepping up workplace hygiene policies.

Monitor and follow government guidelines and consult your doctor if you have any concerns.


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