Efforts continue in order to stop the spread of the Ebola outbreak and find vaccines to defeat the virus. However, businesses need to be prepared in more ways than one. Although the risk is considered low that a widespread Ebola infection would occur outside West African countries, the potential consequences could be catastrophic and deadly. Like other epidemics that became pandemics, precautions against Ebola can start with common sense instructions to prevent infection and to react appropriately if it is detected. But they cannot end there. Organisations must make sure that additional protection is in place both for their employees and their business activities.
Ebola is not a special case in this respect. The world contains many health and life-threatening viruses and microbes. Sometimes, as in the current situation with Ebola, circumstances conspire to cause illness or death on a massive scale. If enterprises think through their preparations properly in case of an Ebola infection, their employees’ safety and their business continuity will be better protected and reinforced for other pandemics too. For example, besides being able to detect potential infection among employees, a business also needs to consider the possibility that employees become infected while on company business. Besides helping to limit and cure such infection, the business must also be sure that it did everything possible to advise on and eliminate the prior risk to such employees.
Infection of employees, especially when on company business, may also attract media attention – and not necessarily of the best kind. The public image of the business is not the only thing at stake here. Negative publicity can affect revenues and profitability, which in turn can threaten jobs. The possible ramifications may be extensive. For everyone’s sake, businesses should also ensure that business continuity planning covers these different possible impacts. They should also verify that they have suitable insurance in place to help compensate for any prejudice that may be suffered.