It’s here folks – the swine flu. The Centers for Disease Control have issued a level 4 pandemic alert (the World Health Organization has it at 5), which means that there is an increased risk of swine flu but does NOT mean it will necessarily get to the pandemic level. A level 6 CDC alert is the pandemic level. The CDC has activated it’s emergency operations center and may soon issue a travel alert recommending U.S. citizens put off travel to Mexico. Customs and Border Protection agents are now passively looking for signs of influenza, but have no plans to conduct health screening of inbound passengers at this time.

We’ve been talking about this issue for awhile in the context of the pandemic flu and while we’re not there yet this could be a good test run of some of the plans airports, airlines and the government have been making. And if you don’t have a plan yet, now is a good time to start working on one.

The CDC is issuing travel advisories and TSA is asking airports to post warning signs.

From an aviation safety and security perspective, there are some things you should be thinking about. Absenteeism, personal protection, shift coverage and concerns with passengers, identifying individuals who may have symptoms and false symptom patients seeking medical attention, among others.

1. Ensure you have plenty of surgical masks and gloves, both for your staff and if possible for general distribution.

2. Ensure you can contact your local health and medical centers should a passenger arrive that is symptomatic.

3. Know where your quarantine areas are located and that your staff knows how to handle a quarantined individual.

4. You may see a higher rate of absenteeism as employees stay home to avoid public contact, to take care of sick family members or to take care of healthy kids who have been sent home due to school closures. They may also become sick with the flu or flu-like symptoms. Start working on staff-reduction contingencies now. 

Download the Federal plan for handling the pandemic flu here.

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