ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Business Plan for a Flu Pandemic

Updated on November 23, 2009


Influenza is caused by three types of viruses called influenza A, B, and C. Although type B infection is limited only to humans, type A can infect humans, birds, pigs, and other types of animals. Influenza “outbreaks” occur when a major change to a virus results in a new strain, making existing preventative vaccinations obsolete. Because the virus is new, humans do not have immunity to it are far more susceptible to the disease. Consequently, the symptoms are usually more severe.

Since it has been nearly 40 years since the last influenza outbreak and a new strain of influenza historically appears about every 30 or 40 years, disease experts of the World Health Organization (WHO) consider the risk of a new outbreak as “serious” and are closely monitoring the human cases of avian flu that have occurred over the past few years.

Mexican police wearing flu masks
Mexican police wearing flu masks


In the history of the world’s natural disasters, certainly the “Spanish Flu” outbreak of 1918-1919 was the deadliest. Considered “exceptional” in terms of severity, the Spanish flu caused 40 to 50 million deaths worldwide over the course of 12 months. Far more deadly than the milder “Asian Flu” outbreak of 1957-1958 or the “Hong Kong Flu” of 1968-1969 (both caused by a combination of human and avian viruses), the Spanish flu was likely only of avian virus origin. Avian influenza viruses do not usually infect humans, but the 140 cases of avian flu between 2004 and early 2006 may be a warning sign that the next outbreak will be a “pandemic” caused by a virus of solely avian origin.

A pandemic, as compared to a more geographically limited epidemic, occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population. Pandemics are not a “one time” event since periods of illness may come in 2 or 3 “waves” anywhere from 3 to 12 months apart.

Certain conditions must be met for a pandemic to occur:

  • There must be a new strain of influenza A virus
  • The virus must be easily passed from human to human
  • The virus is able to cause serious illness or death

The current avian strain meets two of three conditions. It is a new influenza A virus, and it has killed more than half of the people who have been infected by it. The current virus does not spread easily from human to human, but because all influenza viruses have the ability to change, it may eventually gain this ability. If this occurs a modern pandemic, with the assistance of international air travel, is expected to spread to all parts of the world in less than 3 months.

Make a Business Plan

Disease experts at WHO recommend that businesses prepare a plan that will allow for functional operations even with one-quarter to one-third of employees absent.  Consider whether some employees will work form home or other off-site location, whether temporary workers or services will be used, or if some employees will be required to live on-site during the labor shortage.  Contingency plans for all three situations should be in place.  When creating the plan remember that:

  • Health care resources will be strained because there will be more patients and many health care providers will also be ill
  • Employees who are not ill themselves may remain home to care for sick family members
  • Schools may be closed, forcing parents to stay home with children or bring them to work
  • Other businesses will be affected.  There may be disruptions to supplies, services, and transportation.  Customers will be affected as well.
  • Vaccinations may become available, but in short supply, at some point during the pandemic.  Decide in advance which employees are most crucial to operations and should be vaccinated first.

1918 Spanish flu victim
1918 Spanish flu victim
Soldiers stricken by Spanish flu
Soldiers stricken by Spanish flu
1918 Spanish flu
1918 Spanish flu

Prevention and Control in the Workplace

There are a number of steps businesses can take to prevent or control severe outbreaks in the workplace.  The most important method to reduce the spread of infections is the simple precaution of washing hands regularly with soap and water.  Ensure that clean hand washing facilities are available, or offer employees waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizers (especially if they must travel to areas where such facilities are not available).  The workplace cleaning schedule should also be revised.  Daily cleaning of work surfaces, door knobs, and other easily infected areas is important.  Other easy methods:

  • Provide boxes of tissues to contain coughing and sneezing
  • Provide disinfectant wipes in common use areas such as copy centers or break rooms so employees can clean the equipment prior to use
  • Instruct employees not to share equipment, such as telephones or keyboards, unless it has been disinfected after prior use
  • Remove magazines, newspapers or other shared items from waiting areas or break rooms
  • Clean a sick employee’s workstation or other areas where that person has been
  • Ensure that ventilation systems are working properly
  • If an employee is showing any signs of sickness, send them home
  • Instruct sick employees to stay home until all symptoms are gone

Wearing masks has not been found effective once the virus has entered the community.  Once a pandemic strikes, employees should avoid crowded places to slow the possibility of infection.   Social distancing is one strategy to help keep people three feet or more apart.  Some suggestions include:

  • Use video conferencing, telephones, or the internet to conduct business (even within the same building)
  • Encourage employees to work from home
  • Cancel or postpone travel that is not absolutely necessary
  • Avoid public transit or stagger employee work hours so they can take public transit at off-peak hours
  • Avoid shaking hands
  • When meetings are necessary, have the meeting in a room large enough that people can sit at least three feet apart.


For more information about avian flu and pandemics, visit the websites of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)