Working if there is a bird flu pandemic

Nearly everyone who has a job calls in sick now and then. But when is it okay to call in to AVOID sickness? Answer: bird flu pandemic.

In the highly unlikely event that a bird flu pandemic occurs, the best preventive measure will be to avoid contact with the general population. So if you’re a cashier, for instance, you might have to take some time off. Add to that list: bartenders, waiters, barbers, mechanics, airline attendants and anyone else who comes into contact with the public.

But what about health care workers?

Tough call. A recent survey conducted by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that more than 40 percent of public health employees would be unlikely to show up for work during a pandemic.

Most of those who said they’d ride out the pandemic at home were technical, clerical and other support workers. The good news: Doctors and nurses were much more likely to be among the majority who said they’d be right there, no matter the danger.

Study co-author Daniel J. Barnett, M.D., told Ivanhoe Newswire that more training is needed for support staff so they’ll better understand their importance in the event of a pandemic.

In other words: Put on a protective facemask and get to work!

I personally found this study a little unsettling because the survey was conducted in three Maryland counties, and all three counties are near my home. Yikes! What if I get hurt, rush to the emergency room, and no clerks are there to admit me? That’s just one way a pandemic turns into pandemonium.

But as I mentioned above, the likelihood of a bird flu pandemic is quite small, regardless of what you’ve heard. To find out why you should not panic while watching the latest bird flu report on the evening news, see the e-Alert “Deal or No Deal?” (4/12/06), which you can find on our web site at

“Working During the Flu Pandemic” Ivanhoe Newswire, 4/19/06,