This year’s flu season is expected to be one of the worst we’ve seen in 10 years. Chances are that if you don’t have the flu, you know someone who does. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41 states are reporting widespread cases, Boston has declared a public health emergency after the virus claimed the lives of more than a dozen people, and nationwide, at least 20 children have died of the flu.
Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness. It can cause mild to severe illness and can lead to death. It is passed to others through sneezing and coughing as well as through contact with contaminated surfaces. Symptoms include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills (though not everyone with flu develops a fever);
- Sore throat;
- Runny or stuffy nose;
- Muscle or body aches;
- Headaches; and
The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.
People with the flu can spread it to others up to about six feet away. Most experts think that the flu is spread mainly through droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk.
To avoid the flu:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or used alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick to prevent others from catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, germs are often spread when a person touches something contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
- Take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, remain physically active, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritiously.
The CDC has a variety of materials available online to share with employees or the general public to share the flu prevention message.
Preventing the spread of flu in the workplace
Agility, a provider of business continuity and disaster recovery solutions, is contracted by VMLIP to provide services to members with property coverage. They will soon be providing access to a free flu preparedness webinar to VMLIP members.
Meanwhile, below are some of Agility Recovery’s suggestions for limiting or preventing the spread of the flu within your workplace.
- Encourage all employees to get vaccinated. It is not too late to get a flu shot, and even though it takes 10 days for the flu shot to be at maximum effectiveness, with three more months of the flu season remaining, protecting yourself with a flu shot is still your best strategy for prevention.
- Educate your employees on healthy habits. Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing as well as washing your hands often will help cut down your likelihood of passing on the flu or catching it.
- Communicate clearly. Help your employees understand what’s expected of them and how you are responding to the situation.
- Advise all employees to stay home if they are sick. Anyone ill with flu symptoms should remain at home until they’re no longer contagious.
- Have a detailed plan in place to shift work hours. Be proactive in setting up flexible policies around alternate work sites and schedules. Keep in mind the special needs of parents since they may have to juggle school and daycare cancellations.
- Clean surfaces and items that are more likely to have frequent hand contact. Use sanitizing supplies to clean shared areas and equipment, such as lunchrooms, door handles, elevator buttons and copy machines.
Agility is also providing a seasonal influenza preparedness checklist. This list will help you develop a plan, prepare your workplace, and focus on what to do during a flu outbreak.
Stay one step ahead of the flu and have a safe and healthy flu season.
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