Combating flu season impact on business

Top health officials in Arizona are calling on state citizens to get vaccinated for the flu, according to a report from The Associated Press.

Arizona Health Services Director Will Humble told the news source that officials are testing flu specimens to determine which strains are circulating, as well as which ones may be resistant to drug treatment.

With the state’s Department of Health Services reporting that 12,000 people in Arizona were hospitalized or sickened by the flu during 2013, businesses may want to take flu season seriously. In addition to sapping worker productivity, the flu and other illnesses can cost businesses dearly in sick days. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu costs the economy nearly $10.4 billion alone in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits for adults. For businesses that must contend with the approximately 111 million workdays lost due to the flu each year, the cost comes to nearly $7 billion.

Understanding the illness
As outlined by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. While many cases are mild, others can become extremely severe, resulting in hospitalization or death.

“Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications,” the organization stated on its official website. “The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year.”

Promoting vaccinations
The CDC maintains the best way for businesses to reduce the impact of flu season is to promote vaccinations among employees. There are two strategies businesses can use, according to the CDC.

One strategy involves hosting a flu vaccination clinic in the workplace.

“To minimize absenteeism, employers frequently offer onsite seasonal flu vaccination to employees at no or low cost to their employees,” the CDC states. “This option can work well if the employer has an on-site occupational health clinic. If you don’t have a clinic, pharmacies and community vaccinators can be contracted to provide seasonal flu vaccination services on-site.”

This might be one avenue for businesses to consider, as it will all but guarantee that workers are given an opportunity to enhance their immune systems against influenza. However, if this isn’t an option, the CDC also recommends educating employees on where they and their families can receive flu vaccinations in the community.

Avoiding the spread of illness
There are also a number of preventative measures businesses might consider besides vaccinations.

For instance, businesses may want to inform employees that they should avoid close contact with people who are sick. Additionally, asking workers who are sick to stay home can help prevent the illness from spreading throughout the workplace.

Other simple preventative measures include reminding workers to cover their noses and mouths when they cough and sneeze, as well as encouraging employees to regularly clean and disinfect their work stations.

Asking workers to thoroughly wash their hands on a regular basis also can help prevent the spread of germs during flue season.

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