Protect Yourself From Bird Flu

By: rickstooker
During a bird flu pandemic, being close to other people will be dangerous.

If you're a professional who can perform any or all of your work at home, you should take advantage of this to keep yourself away from possibly infected people at your job site -- and yet continue to earn your paycheck.

That's the best of all worlds during a bird flu pandemic -- so long as the infrastructure of our communications systems remains intact and functioning.

If avian influenza ever changes its genetic makeup so that it's as highly contagious to people as ordinary seasonal flu, that would unleash a highly dangerous pandemic on the world.

The best way to protect yourself from the avian flu is to take all basic hygienic precautions to prevent picking up a contagious disease.

This includes washing your hands often. Not touching surfaces (such as desk tops, computer keyboards, door knobs etc) that may have influenza viruses on them.

And what's called "social isolation."

That is, staying away as far from as other people as possible.

One of the reasons that St Louis suffered a lot fewer than average deaths during the 1918 influenza pandemic was because its public health officer insisted on closing all public activities as much as possible. Swimming pools, theaters, restaurants, schools -- everything.

Many businesses are already making plans to allow their employees to telecommute whenever possible, during a bird flu pandemic or any other emergency.

The Telework Coalition and the Association of Contingency Planners have already formed an alliance to promote telework as a way for businesses to continue operating during emergencies.

They're pushing for passage of three bills to promote this. The Telecommuting Tax Fairness Act of 2005, (S. 1097 and H.R. 2558), will stop the double taxation of interstate telecommuters. The Parents' Tax Relief Act of 2005 (S.1305 and H.R.3080) and The Telework Tax Incentive Act (S. 1292) provide tax credits to businesses and individuals for establishing and participating in telework programs.

Also, telework or telecommuting can benefit employees and businesses in other situations. With the price of gas so high, allowing employees to work at home, if only for a few days a week, is a significant pay raise in itself.

Not spending time fighting traffic is another great benefit, no matter the price of gas.

Other situations could make it difficult or impossible to physically go to a work site -- such as heavy snowstorms and family health needs.

TelCoa suggests the following steps to implementating a telework programs:

1. Determine who in your organization is in a position to perform their duties from home. This would include workers who spend the majority of their time on the computer and/or phone.

2. Modify work activities so they can be carried out from home. This may mean digitizing many more of your records and information.

3. Check with your IT departments to verify that these workers have a secure means to remotely access the corporate network(s).

4. Develop with managers a plan to train workers on the basics of working from home.

5. Test your plan.

6. Evaluate your plan.

7. Adjust and refine your as necessary.

8. Develop a notification system so that your staff will know when your emergency telework program is in effect.

Sounds great. Get started. It might even work, at least for a while.

There are two small catches, of course.

Some experts believe that if there's an extensive bird flu pandemic the extra traffic of people calling friends and family in stricken areas, checking for news, using the Internet to work or play during during the day, and so on, will overwhelm the telephone and Internet networks within 3 days.

Also, if many electrical company workers are sick or dead, there's a good chance that they won't be able to continue to keep electricity going through the grid -- at least not full time.

And if there's a storm or extremely hot weather -- such as we've been experiencing the past few weeks -- who's going to keep the equipment repaired or replace the downed wires?

So, I must conclude -- telecommuting is a good idea and certainly use it as much as possible.

But if things get really bad, don't count on it.

"Virtual" reality online is nice -- but it rests on a quite physical foundation of electricity and hardware.
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