NU Online News Service, May 19, 3:37 p.m.EDT

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Fifty-five percent of executives at global companies said theyhave plan in place to manage pandemic risk and have activated it inresponse to the outbreak of the H1N1 "swine flu" virusvariation.

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A survey released today, taken during the week of May 4 by NewYork-based The Conference Board, a not-for-profit think tank, foundthat of 121 members of 44 councils--small, cross-industrynetworking peer groups of executives--the majority (66 percent) ofcompanies are responding at a global, enterprise level, rather thanlocally.

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Thirty-one percent of survey participants are responding at anational level, only in affected countries where their company iscurrently operating.

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"Our research from The Conference Board councils shows thatwhile there are some differences in corporate responses to thedanger of an influenza pandemic, most companies are in agreementthat they should be prepared for the worst and ready for a majorthreat to their global operations," Carolyn Cavicchio, seniorresearch associate, global corporate citizenship at The ConferenceBoard, said in a statement.

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While most companies are having discussions with all levels ofgovernment, one-third of those surveyed have not engaged withgovernment at all.

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According to the survey, companies are taking the followingresponse measures:

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o Regular communications are being sent to employees on theimpact of influenza viruses on health and work performance by 94.2percent of firms polled.

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o Eighty-one percent are actively encouraging employees to stayhome if they do not feel well.

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o Antibacterial cleanser such as sanitizing gels are beingsupplied in public areas or washrooms by 52.9 percent of firms.

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o Fourteen percent are cancelling face-to-face meetings.

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o Business travel is being restricted by 65.3 percent.

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o Antiretroviral drugs for employee use are being stockpiled by14.9 percent of companies.

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o Another 24 percent are taking "other" precautions, the studyfound.

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Almost all companies were found to be taking special steps tocommunicate more frequently and in more detail about a possible flupandemic with employees, with 87 percent using new media (such asWeb sites and blogs) to accomplish this.

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Of those surveyed, 81 percent said they have actively encouragedemployees who do not feel well to stay home so they don't infectco-workers.

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Most companies, The Conference Board said, have policies likethis that can be helpful in managing through the current outbreak.An overwhelming 93 percent of survey participants said they wouldallow employees to work off-site (from home or a satellitefacility) during a pandemic health emergency.

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The survey found that of companies surveyed, only 5 percent saidthe chief executive officer was charged with the pandemic responseeffort. The largest number, 18.2 percent, said they were headed bya special company task force; 15.7 percent were headed by "other";and 14.9 percent indicated human resources was in charge.

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While half of respondents reported their companies arerestricting business travel, particularly to Mexico, half ofrespondents have not put any restrictions into their travelpolicies, the survey found.

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