The Effect of Flu on the Workplace

Source: 123RF

With winter on the doorstep, it’s time for your annual flu shot.

On average, the CDC reports the flu kills about 24,000 Americans each year.

According to NIOSH, the annual direct costs, such as hospital and doctor’s office visits, medications, of influenza (flu) in the United States are an estimated $4.6 billion.

The flu causes U.S. employees to miss approximately 17 million workdays due to flu, at an estimated $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity.

According to the CDC, most people who get sick with flu will have mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs and will recover in less than two weeks. Some people, however, are more likely to get flu complications that can result in hospitalization and sometimes death.

Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. Flu also can make chronic health problems worse.

For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have flu and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by flu.

Below are the groups of people who are more likely to get serious flu-related complications if they get sick with flu:

  • Adults 65 years or older;
  • Pregnant women;
  • Young children;
  • Asthma and Diabetes sufferers;
  • Heart disease and cancer patients; and
  • Native Americans and Alaska natives.

Some years, new strains of the flu virus can be resistant to the vaccine. Last year, a new strain caused a wave of illness just as the first was winding down, making for one of the longest influenza seasons on record.

The year before that saw a number of fatalities caused by the virus strain.

Traditional flu shots are for all ages. For adults who are uneasy about needles, one brand uses a needle-free jet injector that pushes vaccine through the skin. The FluMust nasal spray is generally for healthy people ages 2 to 49.

Most health care practitioners agree that you should stay home for a long as you have severe symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, and cough with mucus or vomiting.

OSHA and the CDC recommend employees stay home if they are sick, until at least 24 hours after a fever ends.