The winter months are upon us, and what that means is colder weather, maybe some snow and ice and the flu. Between 5-20 percent of Americans catch the flu annually, and it is estimated that 70 million workdays are missed every year as a result, costing employers between $3 billion and $12 billion per year.
The flu season usually runs from December to March, and CDC data from 1982 through 2016 shows the flu peaked in February for 14 of those seasons and in December for seven of them, and a for the rest of the years, it was between March and January. That means the flu season lasts one-third of every year, so what can you do to protect yourself and help reduce the spread of the seasonal flu in workplaces? Here are few recommendations by CDC:
1. Get the flu vaccine every year, especially if you are considered increased risk
Although the flu vaccine’s effectiveness varies from year to year, it has been proven to keep you from getting the flu, makes the flu less severe if you do get it, and keeps you from spreading the flu to your co-workers, family and others. Those usually considered high risk are the elderly, pregnant women, small children, persons with certain medical conditions (i.e. asthma, lung disease, heart disease, etc.).
2. Stay at home if you are sick
If you have a fever and respiratory symptoms, please stay home until 24 hours after your fever ends without the use of medications. But realize too that not everyone who has the flu will have a fever. Other symptoms may include runny nose, body aches, headache, tiredness, diarrhea or vomiting.
3. Use basic hygiene to stop the spread of germs and viruses
Basic hygiene includes all the things our parents and kindergarten teachers stressed! Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds (sing the happy birthday song, if you aren’t sure just how long 20 seconds is), and if there is no soap and water available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizing rub. Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes, and cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve(s). After your sneezes and coughs, wash those hands!
4. Wipe down common work areas with a disinfectant
Any work area that is frequently touched, including telephones, computer equipment, copiers, etc, should be cleaned with a disinfectant regularly. Refrain from using coworkers’ desks, phones, computers or other work equipment, and if you must use them, consider cleaning it first with a disinfectant.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires employers provide working conditions that are free from known dangers, including sicknesses such as the flu. All employers should implement a program that combines the above recommendations to protect workers and reduce the transmission of the seasonal flu virus in the workplace. Need help establishing such a program at your workplace? Workplace Safety & Health, Inc. is just a phone call away – 317-253-9737.