Wall-to-wall news coverage of Ebola — including quite a bit of misinformation — is generating a disproportionate fear about Ebola in the U.S. Health officials say that a widespread outbreak of Ebola in the U.S. is unlikely because we have the health infrastructure to treat it. African countries that have good health infrastructures, like Nigeria and Senegal, have been successful in containing the illness.
Ebola may be something that is causing anxiety in your employees; and if not now, it may in the future. While there is only one confirmed case in the U.S. and some medical personnel who have been treated here, the situation has triggered a high level of anxiety. Globally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that the outbreak “will get worse before it gets better.” As public anxiety increases, it can be helpful to know the facts and have a response.
Some people have heightened or particular concerns: people whose work entails travel; health care workers; airline and airport workers; families of military who will be deployed to assist in relief efforts; and people who live on communities with hospitals where treatment is being provided.
Ezra Klein of Vox frequently writes about health care issues and he has developed many informative resources on Ebola – including an article, which addresses America’s overreaction. He quotes a doctor and a medical journalist who offer some scale: globally: 7,000 people have contracted Ebola in this outbreak vs 200 million cases of malaria. Contrast the level of news coverage and anxiety related to Ebola in the U.S. with the 10,000 annual fatalities related to drunk driving. People who have health fears could be reminded to get a a flu vaccine to prevent a common illness that results in thousands of U.S. deaths each year.
Be prepared to deal with employee anxiety by learning the facts. Remember, if you have an EAP, it can be a good resource for helping people cope with anxiety, fears and stress.
Here are some factual resources about Ebola
The CDC is a go-to source for facts on Ebola, offering information on prevention, risk of exposure and signs and symptoms.
Ebola Information for Healthcare Workers
Travel Health Notices
Infectious Diseases Related To Travel
Here’s how you can (and can’t) get Ebola
15 charts, maps, and photos that explain the Ebola outbreak
Talking to children about Ebola
SHRM: Employers Should Be Prepared as Ebola Outbreak Grows
The Ebola Exposure: U.S. Workplace Considerations
Ben Huggett, attorney, Littler says:
While it is too early to assert that Ebola will be a major health issue among the U.S. population, employers in the United States have started asking what preparations and actions they should be taking. Employers should consider the wide range of decisions that may arise, including: restricting international travel; medical inquiries and potential quarantines for employees who have traveled; leave from work; and educating management and employees.
Ebola Virus Disease: Occupational Safety and Health – joint WHO/ILO briefing note for workers and employers (updated 5 September 2014)
Ebola: Emerging Concerns for Healthcare Facilities and Employers
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