It is estimated over 75,000 people worldwide have been infected with the coronavirus, with death figures approaching 2800 people. The fear of this potentially deadly virus has employers beginning to take steps to protect their employees. 

Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Symptoms of the 2019-nCoV include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. 

Coronavirus is spread primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory viruses spread.  It’s currently unclear if a person can get coronavirus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

Multiple employers have begun to implement strategies to reduce anxiety about this virus and prevent spread. Below are some best practices based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Promote proper hygiene
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Encourage workers to stay home if they’re not feeling well
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning
  • Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps:
    • Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. 
    • Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
    • Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.

Complete CDC guidance can be found here: CDC Interim Guidance

Additional Resources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; World Health Organization