The new Wuhan coronavirus has been in the headlines for weeks now, but it is becoming ever more apparent that this is one outbreak that everyone should take seriously. In just a matter of weeks, the Wuhan virus went from being a non-issue to becoming a medical emergency, with thousands afflicted and new cases spreading to nations outside of China.
It is now a certainty that the Wuhan virus is spreading across the world. Countries with confirmed cases include Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and the United States. Other countries might also be affected with either unconfirmed or undiscovered cases. This is particularly concerning as the virus is already being held responsible for a number of fatalities thus far.
With the virus affecting more and more countries around the world, it will inevitably have an effect on businesses and the workplace. The worrying part about the virus is its ability to be transmitted through human-to-human contact such as handshakes or simply touching of infected surfaces. Its symptoms include runny nose, sore throat, headache, and fever.
So what can employers do to help prevent an outbreak in their offices?
- Encourage handwashing and sanitisation
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best way to protect yourself is by paying careful attention to cleanliness. Guidelines say that effective handwashing should last for about 20 seconds. HR should communicate with employees to remind them to wash their hands frequently and also provide hand sanitisers around the office.
- Provide masks
The Wuhan virus is not known to be airborne. However, experts are inclined to believe that bodily fluids can spread the virus. Therefore, coughing, sneezing, and the like are all potential methods of transmission. This is particularly concerning since some of the symptoms are very flu-like, including runny noses, sore throats, headaches, and fever. As such, HR should consider providing masks for employees to help prevent the spread of such symptoms. Even if colleagues are just afflicted with the common cold, its better to be safe than sorry.
- Disinfect the office
As the virus can be spread through touching of infected surfaces, it’s important to disinfect ‘high-touch’ surfaces such as door-knobs and common tables. HR can also provide disinfectant wipes to employees and encourage them to disinfect their personal workspaces.
- Allow employees to work from home
While some companies already allow this practice, those that do not should consider allowing employees who are showing symptoms or have just returned from China to work from home during this period. After all, if an infected individual is not in the office, they can’t spread it to their colleagues.
- Avoid travelling to China for work or leisure
Of course, with how contagious and dangerous this new virus is, you would not want your employees heading straight to ground zero and potentially bringing the virus back to the office. So as important as the meeting might be, business can wait as the health of your employees should be the priority. It would also be best to discourage employees from taking vacations to China for the time being.