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Archive for Sunday, June 25, 2006

Businesses advised to plan regarding flu pandemics

June 25, 2006

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— Public health officials on Friday warned businesses that a third to a half of the Kansas work force could be out sick for weeks at a time if a pandemic influenza hits the state.

Businesses need to prepare a crisis plan that prepares them for a potential loss of employees, clients and even data for long stretches of time, state and business officials said during a planning symposium.

"We have a responsibility as leaders... to take action but not panic," said Mike Doble, vice president for strategic communications at Raytheon.

The conference, the fifth in an ongoing series of educational meetings around the state, outlined the pandemic influenza threat to the U.S., what kind of impact an outbreak could have in Kansas and what businesses should do to get ready.

While the symptoms and treatment of pandemic influenza are the same as any other flu virus, the difference is that everyone is susceptible. No one has immunity to the new virus, and a vaccine won't be immediately available.

In Kansas, that could mean on average, 25 percent of the work force will get ill, 350,000 people will seek a physician's help, more than 7,600 will be hospitalized and 2,000 people will die, said Howard Rodenberg, health director for the Kansas Department of Health & Environment.

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