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Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Practical level

Although there is no immediate threat in South Africa from human swine influenza or ‘Swine flu’ as it is most commonly referred to, Aon South Africa cautions employers that we could see a fast-spreading epidemic, which may affect every workplace, with possible staff illness, absenteeism and death.

Dr Brad Beira, a senior executive at Aon says, "Business operations are driven by the health of the work force. From a position of social consciousness and to ensure business continuity it is prudent to put measures in place to support employees and potentially exposed communities in current times where local outbreaks can rapidly become global pandemics. The diagnosis of Swine Flu has again raised our awareness of the importance of speedy interventions to health risks as they relate to individual health status and enterprise risks and the need for these to be managed in a considered, systematic manner.”
Andre Jacobs, Regional Manager Healthcare for Aon says that to state that Swine flu has reached pandemic proportions might be overstating the position. “Although this virus is similar to the Spanish flu of 1918 much more is known now than back then.” He says the World Health Organisation and Governments worldwide are ready to deal with a serious outbreak of Swine flu. Employers that wish to develop policies to deal with the risk associated with Swine flu can draw on international best practice in order to eliminate panic, rumours and overreaction by members of staff.
“They do however need to ensure that the potential of a pandemic is not underestimated and should promote appropriate and effective ways of managing Swine flu in the workplace and home environment. They also need to create a balance between the rights and responsibilities of both employer and employee.”
Jacobs says it is important to identify workers that have a higher risk of contracting Swine flu than others. These include those directly working with food; those whose close relatives work with food; those with chronic illnesses eg asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease etc. and those who travel to countries or are exposed to people visiting from countries where the Swine flu virus has been identified.
Jacobs says general infection control practices and good hygiene can help to reduce transmission of all viruses, including Swine flu.
”On a more practical level,” says Jacobs, “members of medical schemes must note that treatment of Swine flu will be dealt with according to the rules of their medical scheme. Members suffering from flu-like symptoms must seek professional medical advice. However, this does not apply to Swine flu or flu but to any serious ailment. Members travelling should also ensure they are fully aware of what appropriate cover their medical scheme provides, and whether additional cover is needed.”

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:22.7 1st July, 2009
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