Five flu prevention tips
While your employees can catch the flu year-round, fall and winter are the peak times for an outbreak. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 80,000 Americans died from the flu and more than 900,000 ended up in the hospital.
On average, U.S. employees miss more than 17 million workdays from the flu, costing employers $7 billion in sick days and lost productivity. Make sure your organization is prepared to help employees get through flu season.
The flu is an infection of the respiratory tract that is caused by the influenza virus. It is spread mainly through airborne transmission, when an infected person sneezes, coughs or speaks. A person can infect others one day before having flu symptoms and up to five days after becoming ill.
Influenza is most often associated with the sudden onset of fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, congestion, cough and sore throat. Most people recover within a few days to less than two weeks. Occasionally, complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis or other infections can occur.
One of the most important steps for preventing the flu is to get an annual flu vaccination. The CDC recommends that all people over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccine each year. Hosting an onsite flu vaccination clinic can help educate employees about the importance of vaccination, and make it easier for them to get vaccinated. The CDC offers these tips:
- Consider getting employees vaccinated against flu as a business priority and create a goal aligned with this effort.
- Identify a flu vaccination coordinator and/or team with defined roles and responsibilities. Determine if you will need to contract with an outside provider of flu vaccination services (such as a pharmacy or community immunizer).
- Schedule the flu vaccination clinic to maximize employee participation. Flu season usually begins in the fall of each year.
- Provide accessible flu vaccinations in as many business locations as possible.
- Provide a comfortable and convenient location for the flu vaccination clinic.
- Allow employees to get vaccinated during their normal work day.
- Set an example by having managers and business leaders get vaccinated first.
- Use incentives, such as offering the vaccine at no or low cost, providing refreshments at the clinic or holding a contest for participation percentage among departments.
- Promote the flu vaccination clinic with posters, an article in the company newsletter or intranet, informational flyers and emails.
- Set a participation goal to demonstrate to employees that participation is important.
- Consider offering flu vaccination to employees’ families.
If you choose not to provide an onsite flu vaccination clinic, you can still emphasize the importance of vaccination to your employees, and educate them about local opportunities to get vaccinated. In addition, educate employees about flu prevention strategies, including:
- Covering nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
- Washing hands often with soap and water (or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer)
- Avoiding contact with sick people
- Staying home from work when sick, and limiting contact with others
For more information and resources, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/business/.