Swine Influenza A (H1N1) ("Swine Flu") is raising international concern, particularly with the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome ("SARS") fresh in our memories. On April 29, 2009, the World Health Organization ("WHO") raised the pandemic alert from Phase 4 to 5 of 6 as the pandemic has spread to at least two countries in one WHO region. The declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.
As of May 4, 2009, there are 140 laboratory-confirmed cases of Swine Flu reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada, including cases in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.
What are the Symptoms of Swine Flu?
Swine flu is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can be communicated person-to-person in the same way as seasonal flu—mainly through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
Symptoms of swine flu are similar to seasonal influenza (flu), including headache, chills and cough followed by fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches and fatigue, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes and throat irritation. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may occur in adults as well as in children. In more severe cases, or in people with chronic conditions, complications such as pneumonia may develop.
What You Need to Know or Do
There are a number of practical and legal issues raised by the Swine Flu outbreak. The legal considerations include employer obligations under employment standards, occupational health and safety, workers compensation, and privacy laws.
We have set out a list of considerations and suggestions below to assist employers in proactively addressing these issues.