The flu can be highly infectious, especially in the office. Each year 15 to 60 million people in the United States get the flu. It can be difficult to predict when the next influenza pandemic will occur or how severe it will be, which is why employers should plan to take extra steps to reduce their employees risk of exposure to influenza in their workplace. During a Flu outbreak a workplace may experience absenteeism, change in patterns of commerce, and interrupted supply/delivery. That is why it is so important for organizations to protect their employees.
How Can Organizations Protect Their Employees?
- Emphasize proper hygiene, this includes washing your hands, and avoid contact with your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Provide resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and disposable towels for employees to clean their work surfaces.
- Provide a company Flu Clinic (provided by your local pharmacy). The ideal time of year to administer your flu clinic is October to early November. Educate employees about the benefits of the flu vaccine, and begin to track if your corporate flu shot program is working. Are employees taking fewer sick days?
- Provide employees with up-to-date education and training on influenza risk factors, protective behaviors, and instruction on proper behaviors (for example, cough etiquette and care of personal protective equipment).
- Minimize situations where groups of people are crowded together, such as in a meeting. Use e-mail, phones and text messages to communicate with each other. When meetings are necessary, avoid close contact by keeping a separation of at least 6 feet, where possible, and assure that there is proper ventilation in the meeting room.
- Promote healthy lifestyles, including good nutrition, exercise, and smoking cessation. A person’s overall health impacts their body’s immune system and can affect their ability to fight off, or recover from, an infectious disease.
Everyday preventative actions should include:
- Avoid contact with sick individuals
- If you begin to feel sick while at work, go home as soon as possible
- If you get sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone. The fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
- While sick, limit contact with others
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
- AVOID touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Clean and disinfect common surfaces
People infected with the flu may be able to infect others beginning 1 day BEFORE symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov, or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.