Concerned that small businesses wouldn't be able to properly assess their operations if a swine flu pandemic hits, Lucas County will begin posting a worksheet on its Web site Monday to help them with planning, Commissioner Ben Konop announced Sunday.
The Toledo-Lucas County health department and other public health officials have done a good job of dealing with the medical implications of swine flu, but how a pandemic would affect the local economy also needs to be addressed, Mr. Konop told reporters. Large companies have the staff to develop contingency plans in the case of a swine flu pandemic, but small companies do not have the manpower, he said.
"We have to be ready with the business consequences," Mr. Konop said.
Tricia Taylor, an analyst for a health-care consulting firm who has a master's degree in public health, volunteered last week to let the county use a "Small Business Pandemic Planning Tool Kit" she developed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise businesses to plan for a swine flu pandemic, but it doesn't tell them how, Ms. Taylor said. By using the worksheet Ms. Taylor fashioned, businesses will be able to evalu-ate whether they should stay open during a flu pandemic, be open part time, or close all together, she said.
The worksheet has 12 questions for each of five categories: work force, customers, services, inventory, and finance.
All small businesses should know how many employees they have with children in day care or grade school, because those employees might be absent if those facilities are closed by the spread of swine flu, Ms. Taylor said.
Meanwhile, a local pharmacy, for example, may want to plan for higher demands for prescription and over-the-counter medications needed in a pandemic, while not worrying about greeting cards and photo services, she said.
Ms. Taylor also has compiled a list of Web sites that she advises small businesses to check daily.
According to the World Health Organization, there have been 53 deaths worldwide - 48 in Mexico; three in the United States; one in Canada, and one in Costa Rica - attributable to the swine flu. One of those deaths stateside was a toddler from Mexico, and the victims in Canada, the United States, and Costa Rica had other underlying medical conditions.
Worldwide there have been more than 4,500 confirmed cases of the swine flu in 29 countries, including 1,626 in Mexico, 2,532 in the United States, and 280 in Canada.
At last count, Ohio had seven confirmed and two probable cases of swine flu, none of which was in northwest Ohio.
There are three suspected cases of swine flu in Lucas County being tested, while Fulton and Wood counties each have one case of what officially is known as H1N1, according to Ohio Department of Health statistics released Friday.
So far, 27 cases of suspected swine flu have been ruled out in northwest Ohio, including three in Lucas County, state statistics show.
Businesses with questions about pandemic planning can call the Lucas County Improvement Corp. at 419-213-4510.
Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: