Bird flu? Have you heard of it? You have probably been hearing more about it in the news lately. What is it and why should you be worried about it? Avian influenza affects poultry and wild game birds. It has been mainly in Southeast Asia but is spreading to other countries. Since 2003 160 people worldwide have become ill and about 82 have died. It is deadly to poultry and can be lethal in humans as well. The people who have contacted bird flu have been in close contact with infected birds. At this time it is not transmitted by human-to-human contact. But scientists fear, and health experts agree, that it is only a matter of time that the virus will change into a form that can be easily passed from person to person. When that happens there will be an increased risk of a worldwide pandemic.
We will not have immunity to this form of the flu and it can be deadly. It may be similar to the 1918 flu that killed 40-50 million people around the world. If it starts to spread, life as we know it will change. Millions will become ill and millions will die around the world. This flu could last for months at a time and up to three years. More than likely schools and businesses would be closed, public events canceled, transportation shut down and travel severely limited. Meaning your only choice is to stay home with your family.
Your business or company may have anywhere from 30-60% of the employees out sick, or out to take care of ill family members.
A bird flu pandemic could last for weeks or months at a time. You may be out of work for several months. You may want to start taking some measures now so you are prepared for being out of work and loss of income.
You need to ask your employer how they will be handling a pandemic crisis. What will their policies be? How are they going to provide a healthy work environment so that it will minimize the spread of the flu? How is your health insurance? Does it need to be updated? Will they offer additional sick time or paid leave of absence? Can you get a wage or salary advance or partial advance? Who will fill in for you, if you are out sick or need to stay home with family members who are ill? Are your co-workers crossed trained? What happens if you need to stay home with your children because schools are closed? Can your business run with 50% of employees out sick? What happens if the business needs to shut down completely? How do they plan on communicating with employees who are at home? Are there options for working at home? What if you need to leave the area to go somewhere safer? Will you have a job when you return? These are the type of questions you need to start asking today before a bird flu pandemic.
You will want to make copies of your employment agreements, health and life insurance policies and other employee documents including investment plans, stock options and other benefits. If we enter a pandemic and you need to stay home and be out of work for several months, you may want to consider tapping into any investment plans to find available cash to carry you through. A global influenza pandemic will have catastrophic consequences worldwide that will affect your business, career, investments, home, family and community. Stay informed about the bird flu and start planning for a possible pandemic.