Businesses urged to prepare for H1N1 absences - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Businesses urged to prepare for H1N1 absences

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A seven year old boy in Ellijay has died from swine flu.

It's the fourth death from the flu in Georgia this year. As the virus spreads in south Georgia, health officials say schools are doing a good job responding to the outbreak, but they worry many businesses aren't prepared.

A month ago branch managers at SB&T met with bank manager to review SB&T's pandemic flu plan. Since then, they've made provisions for employees and even put signs up on their doors, encouraging those who have flu symptoms to see their doctor.

At the Southwest Georgia Health Department they're stopping the sick at the door, asking them not to come inside. SB&T has health advice posted in spanish and english. They're doing what they can to keep customers and employees safe.

"We have of course provided all of the staff with hand sanitizer asking them throughout the day to make sure they use their hand sanitizer also we've asked the staff if they feel sick if they're running a fever to stay home," said Kim Colby, SB&T Branch Manager.

Health officials worry not all businesses are being so proactive. They're asking employers to be more lax on their sick policies and warn employees with children could have extended absences.

"Thinking about how you can maintain your business or the services you might provide with a smaller workforce and what thing you can eliminate or postpone and then focus on those central services," said Brenda Greene, Southwest Georgia Health District Deputy Director.

Southwest Georgia Emergency Rooms are becoming more inundated with flu cases, but health officials caution those with flu symptom to seek treatment from a family doctor or convenient care first.

"The Emergency Room is a place you go if you're having more extreme illness and that would be shortness of breath, increased symptoms," said George Fredrick, MD Phoebe Family Care Center Director.

They say if symptoms aren't severe, simple fever reducers at home are good enough. They hope businesses will put more thought into how they'll deal with the disease and like SB&T work on a contingency plan.

"We have a contingency plan in place that worse case scenario of how we would operate the branches to make sure the customer service for our client is not disrupted," said Colby.

SB&T says the worse case scenario for them would be to shut their doors and simply conduct drive through service. They hope it won't come to that.

So far, their safety measures are working. In all of their seven branches they haven't had a flu case yet.

The Southwest Georgia Health District expects to begin receiving the regular flu vaccine as early as next week. Then they'll starting working on dates for flu shot clinics. They've also lowered the price of the vaccine this fall by $5.00 to $20.00.


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