From the Hotline: Managing Employee Ebola Concerns

Question: We have an employee taking vacation time to volunteer to assist with the Ebola epidemic in Africa. What can we do as an employer to address concerns from his colleagues upon his return?

Answer: Encourage employees to stay calm and inform them that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has implemented a new tracking program for all people entering the United States from Ebola-affected countries. Airports in impacted countries are currently screening passengers before they get on a plane and the United States has mandated that five major airports (New York’s JFK, Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago-O’Hare, and Atlanta) will implement additional screening measures for passengers originating on flights from that portion of the world (www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p1008-ebola-screening.html).

If you’d like to take some of the following precautions to ease your employee’s concerns, consider the following:

  • Stay calm. Educate employees about how Ebola is spread and best practices to avoid transmission.
  • Encourage employees to self-report any potential symptoms (either for themselves or family members who have recently returned from one of the affected areas) and to request PTO or a leave of absence if symptoms develop. According to the CDC, the symptoms of the Ebola virus include:
    • Fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Severe headache.
    • Muscle pain.
    • Weakness.
    • Diarrhea.
    • Vomiting.
    • Abdominal (stomach) pain.
    • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising).
  • Establish an emergency preparedness plan to include reporting procedures, communication plans, and medical options.

The CDC website recommends specific precautions for people traveling to the area and encourages people to monitor their health for 21 days following potential exposure. The following link is the CDC online hub for Ebola information and is a great resource for both you and your employees (including the individual who will be traveling to the area) to access: www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/prevention.