Companies should prepare for employee absences due to H1N1 virus, administration says

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The Obama administration this week warned companies to brace for an absence of workers later this year as a result of the H1N1 flu virus.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and two other secretaries told business owners to send ill workers home if they show flu symptoms and expect that those workers will be out for three to five days.  Common sense should come before "the Puritan work ethic," Locke said. Employers also should encourage handwashing and eliminate germs through adequate cleaning of work areas.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month said the flu could affect an estimated 40,000 Americans. That includes those with the virus and those who have to stay home from work to take care of those who become sick. Some 45 million vaccine doses are expected to be ready by mid-October, the Department of Health and Human Services said this week. That is a revision from an earlier projection of 120 million doses.