According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were around 22,000 flu cases reported from the end of September through the end of December last year. Some are saying it was the worst flu season the nation has seen since 2009 when H1N1 (or Swine Flu) was rampant. While flu epidemic is a concern every year, the timing, severity, and length of flu epidemics depends on a variety of factors. Such factors include what influenza viruses are spreading, whether the vaccine is a good match for the viruses, and how many people get vaccinated. While flu seasons are very unpredictable, flu activity has historically peaked in the U.S. sometime during January or February. This means that it is not too late to protect yourself, your employees and your company from the negative impacts that can result from a flu epidemic.
The Centers of Disease Control have created a Toolkit to help businesses and employers fight the flu. It offers tips and suggestions to consider when planning and responding to the seasonal flu. We wanted to share some of their tips and suggestions with you so that you can take the proper steps to protect yourself, employees and company.
While it may already be January, consider hosting a flu vaccination clinic at your company at little or no cost to your employees. If you don’t have an on-site occupational health clinic you can contract with various vaccinators in your community (such as Walgreens) who can come in and provide on-site flu vaccination services. Having these services on-site offers employees an easy and convenient way to get vaccinated. To host a successful flu clinic, ensure that you properly promote the event with handouts/flyers detailing the answers to frequently asked questions and consider offering incentives/rewards that encourage your employees to participate. Such incentives may include handing out free hand sanitizer or antibacterial wet wipes, holding a drawing for prizes/gift certificates for those who receive the vaccine, or offering a reward to the department who has the highest participation rate. You may even want to consider inviting family members to the clinic. Often times there must be a minimum number of participants before a provider will come to your worksite. Offering this service to family members may help you reach that limit but more importantly, offering the vaccine to family members will decrease the likelihood of employees missing work due to a sick family member. Furthermore, if your company shares a building, shopping center, or office park with other employers, check to see if they would like to jointly host a flu clinic for all employees and family members.
While it certainly isn’t too late to get a flu vaccine, you may find that many of your employees have already received a vaccine for the year as the vaccination usually is made available earlier in the fall at the start of flu season. So, rather than holding a clinic at your worksite, consider simply educating your employees on the flu virus and where they can get the flu vaccination in your community. Research health providers, pharmacies, or clinics that offer the flu vaccine provide this information to your employees via a company-wide email, employee newsletter, or by posting flyers around the workplace. You could even consider partnering with a nearby pharmacy or clinic to arrange for employees to get vaccinated.
As most of us are aware, the flu is extremely contagious. Most experts believe that the flu virus spreads mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. While less frequent, a person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes, or nose. The period of contagiousness is longer than you might think. In fact, the flu virus can infect others beginning one day before flu symptoms develop and lasting up to five – seven days after becoming sick. Thus is it important to stop the spread of the virus through preventative measures such as vaccinations, good personal hygiene, and staying home when sick.
As always, promote hand washing and encourage employees to stay home when sick. While the goal is to decrease absenteeism due to employee sickness, you want employees to understand that they are not to come to work if they are feeling ill.
For more information on the flu and the vaccination, please visit www.cdc.gov.
This entry was posted on Monday, October 20th, 2014 at 8:19 am and is filed under Employees. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.