White Paper: Protecting Yourself And Your Business Against Swine Flu

By Richard Dahm Senior Risk Consultant, National Hospitality Division, Wells Fargo Insurance Services | February 15, 2010

It is impossible to read the newspaper or watch the news without hearing something about swine flu. As of today, there have been multiple confirmed cases across the United States and many more worldwide. Although this is not yet pandemic influenza and may never be, the widespread incidence of this virus is causing concern. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public heath emergency for swine flu.

While swine flu is a significant health threat, if we are armed with the knowledge about what it is, how it is transmitted, and what is being done to combat the threat nationally and globally, we can be better prepared to deal with this crisis. Additionally, there are concrete steps we can take to ensure our personal safety and health, and the continued vitality of our business operations in the event of an influenza pandemic.

What is Swine Flu?

Swine flu is a respiratory illness found in pigs resulting from a subtype of influenza A virus, H1N1. There are many types of swine flu, all of which occur naturally in pigs and result in a high incidence but few deaths. Usually, people do not get swine flu, but occasionally human infections do occur. In rare cases, swine flu can spread from human to human, but in the past this was limited to small groups of up to three people. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed that this strain of swine flu is contagious and can spread from human to human.

Currently, there have been reports of human infection of swine flu in the United States, as well as internationally. The CDC maintains an updated case count of human infection in the United States at http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/investigation.htm

The symptoms of swine flu are very similar to those of seasonal influenza, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, chills, and overall fatigue. Some have also reported stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting. Similar to seasonal influenza, the severity of symptoms varies greatly; pneumonia and respiratory failure have been reported especially among those with suppressed immune systems or having chronic medical conditions. Also, like seasonal influenza, bacterial infections can occur simultaneously with swine flu causing pneumonia, ear infections, and sinus infections.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.