Business not ready for flu, study says

Associated Press / September 10, 2009

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Many American businesses are unprepared to deal with widespread employee absenteeism in the event of a swine flu outbreak, a Harvard School of Public Health study says.

The survey, released yesterday, found that two-thirds of more than 1,000 businesses questioned said they could not maintain normal operations if half their workers were out for two weeks. Four-fifths expect severe problems if half are out for a month.

“A minority of businesses have started some sort of emergency planning,’’ said Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy. “Most, I don’t think, have thought through the implications of something so widespread.’’

Companies designated by Homeland Security as critical, including those in food supply and energy, were no more likely to have a plan than nonessential businesses.

Companies may be complacent because of the relatively mild nature of the first wave of swine flu and too concerned about the overall economic situation to worry about future problems, Blendon said.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which includes 6,500 companies in the state, is urging its members to prepare now “because the flu spreads so quickly there won’t be enough time to make these business-critical decisions when it hits,’’ said Karen Choi, senior vice president.