© 2009 Jonathan Bernstein
Estimated Readership: 17,000+
CRISIS MANAGER UNIVERSITY
Breaking Crisis Alert - Swine Flu
By Jonathan Bernstein
Every reader of this ezine, every organization with which you're associated, can now potentially be affected at a crisis level by the swine flu outbreak in Mexico which has not only killed at least 80 people there but which has already spread across the border to the United States and overseas to New Zealand — a deadly gift to 22 students and three teachers who visited Mexico recently.
Steps you should take immediately:
(1) Educate yourself on swine flu. The best starting place is the Center for Disease Control. That fact sheet links to more data. According to the CDC, "The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea." It spreads just like "regular" flu — through the victim's coughing, sneezing and/or touching someone else. It cannot, according to the CDC's info, be spread by eating pork.
(2) Anyone who comes and goes from Mexico regularly should be particularly alert for signs of flu and go to a physician immediately if those symptoms occur.
(3) Employers should ensure that all employees know of this threat and are urged to report symptoms in themselves or others immediately
(4) Be prepared for business interruptions if your workforce is impacted; health officials could even quarantine groups of people who they believe have had direct contact with someone already infected.
(5) Have messaging ready for clients or customers who want to know what you're doing to protect them.
(6) If you have operations in Mexico, strongly consider a temporary freeze on outbound travel by employees there and inbound travel by employees already out of the country.
(7) Retail food organizations may get some customer fear about consuming pork. As noted above, the disease can't be spread that way. Nonetheless, your employees CAN spread the disease and common sense measures that are probably already in place (e.g. handwashing) should probably be the focus of refresher training.
(8) Err on the side of caution. This disease apparently spreads easily and the way such illnesses become epidemics is too many people going about "business as usual" without taking extra precautions.
As I collect additional reliable information on this topic, or have any updated crisis management recommendations, I will post them on my blog. If you have crisis management-related questions (not health questions please!) on this subject, please email them to me, firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will start a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document that will be maintained and updated on the blog.
Be well! Be prepared!
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ABOUT THE EDITOR & PUBLISHER
Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com, a national crisis management public relations agency providing 24/7 access to crisis response professionals. The agency engages in the full spectrum of crisis management services: crisis prevention, response, planning & training. He has been in the public relations field since 1982, following five-year stints in both military intelligence and investigative reporting. Write to email@example.com.
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