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Employers Are Impacted By The Incidence of Flu  

Playing a proactive role can have an impact on a company’s bottom line

DAYTON, Ohio (September 10, 2013) – Businesses are impacted by the flu through absenteeism.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 110 million workdays are lost because of influenza at an estimated cost of $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity. Influenza doesn’t just hurt the individuals who contract it. It also can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line if that business has not taken steps to prepare for the season and help its employees get through it.

“If absenteeism really impacts your bottom line, then I would make sure that your employees are provided for and that can mean offering free flu vaccinations or providing the tools that are needed to keep them healthy,” said Dr. Christopher Lauricella, DO, who practices at Family Medicine of Vandalia. “It can be hard as a boss. You often see people coming into work sick because you know they are trying to make it week to week, but you just have to look at them and tell them to go home until they are better.”

The best support a business can give to its employees is to offer on-site influenza vaccinations. According to a recent study in the Journal of Occupational Health and Environmental Medicine, more than 90 percent of vaccinated employees received their vaccine at employer-sponsored events. Those who got their vaccinations at work were more likely to have family members vaccinated too. The majority of those who were immunized at work said they did so because it was free, convenient and was seen as a way to avoid absenteeism.

Businesses that are unable to provide a flu clinic or free vaccinations can still play an active role in reducing the risk of the disease’s spread. Dr. Lauricella recommends that businesses provide the tools employees need to stay healthy.

“Provide hand sanitizer bottles around the office, don’t give employees a hard time for going to the bathroom on a regular basis to wash their hands, encourage frequent wipe down of surfaces, and place tissue boxes around the office area,” said Lauricella. “Remind employees why the tools are there and encourage them to use them.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides a list of things employees can do to protect themselves during flu season such as limiting visitors to the workplace, minimizing group meetings by conducting communication through emails or text messages and keeping a distance of six feet between other individuals and yourself. The flu virus is spread through microscopic droplets up to six feet from its original source so the less crowded a work environment is the better.

Dr. Lauricella encourages employers and employees to treat each upcoming flu season seriously. The 2012-2013 flu season arrived four weeks early and was intense enough to be categorized as an epidemic, according to the CDC. Influenza-like-illnesses rose quickly above the baseline of expected activity last fall and remained elevated for 15 weeks. Scientists are unable to predict the severity of a flu season. That’s why it is important for companies to proactively plan for an influx in absenteeism.

There are many resources to help businesses prepare and thrive during flu season. These include https://www.osha.gov/dts/guidance/flu/ and http://www.flu.gov/planning-preparedness/business.

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