While Michael Crichton’s bestselling book Outbreak might have been the stuff of fiction, it wasn’t so far off the mark, according to a recent NPR article. It's gist? While it may not be a monkey-borne outbreak of the Matoba variety, the risk of a pandemic is very much a reality due to a rise in infectious diseases around the world. Here’s a closer look at NPR’s findings, along with why it’s important for organizations to take a proactive approach to pandemic planning.
According to NPR analysis of data from EcoHealth Alliance, new diseases are cropping up every day. From hemorrhagic fever caused by rodent droppings to leprosy brought on by a new Mycobacterium species, germs are having a major moment—and may soon be coming to a workplace near you.
Preparing for the Worst
The good news is that science, medicine and public health are better positioned than ever before to take on these diseases. Because of this, the odds are low in this country of a catastrophic pandemic on the order of the Bubonic Plague, the Spanish Flu, or cholera.
However, as anyone who’s ever been felled by the ordinary flu knows, even a relatively “harmless” disease (for the record, thousands of people die from the flu every year) can take you out of commission for days. Multiplied across an entire organization or amplified by more life-threatening symptoms, and the effects can be crippling to operations.
What Can You Do?
While you can’t keep your employees in a bubble, there are some things you can do to manage a potential pandemic—before, during and after an outbreak. For starters, you can take preventative measures by informing team members about best practices for everything from hygiene to vaccines. You can also implement and clearly delineate a telecommuting policy aimed at preventing the spread of germs and minimizing exposure. Additionally, you can make sure all stakeholders have access to the information they need when they need—both to keep them safe and to maximize business continuity.
What do all of these things have in common? Each is part of a comprehensive communication plan. Are your organization’s communications strategies up to the task should an outbreak occur?