As physical therapists, we are able to provide relief for most causes of soft tissue aches and pains among workers. But the one source of pain over which we have little control is that associated with the flu.
According to recent figures from the government, this year’s flu season is taking a toll on at least two-thirds of the country. The CDC’s most recent surveillance report said 36 states reported widespread flu activity in the week ending December 23, especially in Texas and California.
The flu also causes hardships to businesses. In fact, a recent report from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed workers with the flu lose an average of more than one-half day due to absences and lost productivity compared with other types of acute respiratory illnesses.
The good news is there is still much you can do to prevent the flu from running rampant through your company. The flu season is expected to peak soon. Now is the time to drive home the message to your workers to take steps to keep themselves and others in your workforce healthy.
This year represents the 100th anniversary of the flu pandemic of 1918, the deadliest in modern history. It infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide, including more than 600,000 in the U.S. alone. It started in September at an army base near Boston and spread across the country. Finally, it disappeared as mysteriously as it had begun.
While there are new strains of the flu every year, medical experts know quite a bit more about the flu now than they did 100 years ago. Your workers most at risk are those 65 and older, women who are pregnant or within two weeks postpartum, and people with asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and serious disorders.
Here are some strategies experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest to prevent the spread of the flu.
There has been some concern over whether this year’s vaccine is as effective against the latest strains as in previous years. But the CDC estimates this year’s vaccine should be up to 32 percent effective against one strain and even more effective against others. The agency also points out that even if someone who has been vaccinated ends up contracting the flu, having the vaccine can minimize recovery time. And, the vaccine can help protect coworkers from getting it. Adults can begin infecting others one day before their symptoms develop, and up to seven days after becoming sick.
In the U.S., more than 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations are associated with the flu each year. This year’s flu season is not expected to peak for at least several more weeks, or later.
Providing information, reminders and sanitizing equipment will help ensure your workers are not unnecessarily exposed.
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