With the H1N1 outbreak and upcoming flu season, keeping your employees healthy and safe while traveling should be one of your top priorities. You need to educate them on the signs and symptoms of these illnesses, other illnesses they might run into while traveling, the necessary precautions to take against illnesses and what to do in case they get sick while traveling.
“You need to consider the risks and benefits associated with travel during disease outbreaks,” says Debbie Carpenter, the director of account management for Professional Travel Inc. “Health care facilities and resources may become strained as outbreaks increase in number, severity and size.
Also, travelers, especially those with underlying risk factors, should consider the quality and availability of health care at their destination prior to travel, and may reconsider nonessential travel to areas where good health care may be unavailable.
Smart Business spoke with Carpenter about how to prepare for health issues while traveling and how to understand health screening procedures and notices.
How will a flu pandemic affect travel plans?
The global spread of pandemic influenza has prompted some countries to check the health of arriving and/or departing passengers. You may not be permitted to board your flight in any country if you appear ill.
There is also a more rigorous passenger screening process. In late July, several European airlines and countries said that persons who appear to have flu-like symptoms at check-in would be referred for medical evaluation and not permitted to board flights until cleared by a physician. Many countries, including China, are also screening arriving passengers for illness due to the H1N1 outbreak. These health screenings help to reduce the spread of the new virus.
Your employees will most likely need to stay put if a health concern arises while traveling. This can be quite costly and also affects your overall productivity. You need to be aware and proactive to prevent these types of situations from happening. Purchasing travel insurance can help, especially if you are traveling in a high-risk country.
How can you monitor global health issues?
Develop a plan to ensure that employees receive quality care when falling ill during travel. Partnering with an international security risk management company is your first step to due diligence. This ensures that you are up to date on day-to-day occurrences as well as country-specific information.
You can avoid any possible disruptions in service if you avoid high-risk situations from the start. You should also be aware of employees with previous health conditions that would make them high risk, and make necessary arrangements to have another employee travel in their place.
What should you expect during foreign country screening procedures?
Consult the embassy of countries in your travel itinerary for information about entry screening procedures. You may be asked to do the following during these screenings:
- Pass through a scanning device that checks your temperature
- Have your temperature taken with an oral or ear thermometer
- Answer questions about your health
- Review information about the symptoms of the H1N1 virus
- Provide your address, phone number and other contact information
- Contact health authorities in the country you are visiting if you become ill
If you have a fever, respiratory symptoms or are suspected to have the H1N1 virus, you may be asked to:
- Be isolated from other people
- Have a medical examination
- Take a rapid flu test
- Be hospitalized and given medical treatment if you test positive for H1N1
What are the different types of travel notices issued by the Center for Disease Control?
- In the news. Notification by the CDC of a disease occurrence of public health significance affecting travelers or travel destination. This provides information to travelers, Americans living abroad, and health care providers about the disease. The risk for disease exposure is not expected to be increased beyond the usual baseline risk for that area, and standard guidelines are recommended.
- Outbreak notice. Notification by the CDC that a disease outbreak is occurring in a limited geographic area or setting. This provides information to travelers and resident expatriates about the outbreak’s status and reminds about the standard or enhanced travel recommendations for the area. The risk for disease exposure is thought to be increased, but defined and limited to specific settings.
- Travel health precaution. Notification by the CDC that a disease outbreak of greater scope is occurring in a more widespread geographic area. This provides information to travelers and expatriates about the outbreak’s status, specific precautions to reduce their risk for infection, and what to do if they become ill while in that area. The risk for the traveler is increased in defined settings or associated with specific risk factors, but the CDC does not recommend against travel.
- Travel health warning. Notification by the CDC that a widespread, serious outbreak of a disease of public health concern is expanding outside the areas initially affected. This provides information and status updates to travelers, and also reduces the travel volume to the affected areas to reduce the risk of spreading the disease. All nonessential travel to the area is recommended against. Additional preventive measures may be recommended, depending on the circumstances.
- Defining and describing risk for travelers will clarify the need for recommended preventive measures. Scalable definitions will enhance the usefulness of travel notices, enabling them to be tailored in response to specific events and circumstances.
Debbie Carpenter is the director, account management with Professional Travel Inc. Reach her at (440) 734-8800 x4041 or firstname.lastname@example.org.