Flu in the Workplace

Source: Viktoriya Kuzmenkova - 123RF

South Dakota’s Department of Health has announced the first influenza death of the 2018–2019 season. The victim was in his 60s.

Dr. Joshua Clayton, state epidemiologist for the department said, “It is not too late to get vaccinated for this flu season, and if you haven’t yet received your annual flu vaccination, the time to do so is now.”

Clayton noted that flu activity in South Dakota is currently classified as sporadic. To date, the state has reported 35 lab-confirmed cases of flu and 8 flu-related hospitalizations.

According to WebMD, each year, between 5% and 20% of Americans get the flu and miss a staggering 70 million work days as a result. The indirect costs are estimated at $3 billion to $12 billion a year.

Influenza is a viral infection spread by respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever of 100 degrees or greater;
  • Cough;
  • Sore throat;
  • Headache,
  • Fatigue,
  • Body or muscle aches, and
  • Runny or stuffy nose.

Health authorities recommend you call in sick if you display any of these symptoms.

Both the flu shot and the nasal flu vaccine work really well to keep you from getting ill. But they aren’t 100% effective. You can still get sick even if you get vaccinated, although it’s usually less severe and goes away more quickly.

OSHA has listed the best way to reduce your risk of exposure to the flu virus in your workplace using basic hygiene precautions and to avoid close contact with ill people. If your job involves contact with patients or other healthcare services, then you may need to take additional precautions.

The CDC has published “Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2018–19 Influenza Season”.

The CDC recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine (IIV, RIV4, or LAIV4) with no preference expressed for any one vaccine over another.