Businesses Urged to Prepare for Bird Flu

Businesses must prepare for a severe shortage of employees and other disruptions associated with a potential bird-flu pandemic, according to a White House report released Wednesday.

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The 228-page report outlines several hundred point-by-point steps to be implemented by federal agencies and other entities based on a worst-case scenario, in which the virus kills 2 million people and infects 50 million more — ultimately sidelining 40 percent of the nation's workforce.
In November, the Bush administration submitted a $7.1 billion emergency budget to Congress for pandemic preparedness.

White House spokesman Scott McClennan called the plan a "road map" designed to put the president's response strategies into action.

The plan includes a checklist by the Department of Health and Human Services calling on companies of all sizes to evaluate the potential effects of a pandemic on their business, employees, and customers, while establishing clear policies to lessen its impact on the economy.

Among other initiatives, the checklist includes:
· Identifying a pandemic coordinator or team, as well as essential employees required to maintain business operations
· Training an ancillary workforce, including contractors or retirees
· Establishing an emergency communications plan
· Preparing for employee absence due to illness, school and transportation closures, or quarantines
· Improving employee access to health care services
· Establishing policies for when an inflected employee may return to work

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