Fighting the Flu Requires More Than a Flu Shot

Staying well in winter isn’t just about getting a flu shot. There are many reasons for employers to approach flu/illness prevention holistically. Many viruses, not just influenza, can cause workplace illness during the cooler months. Because the flu vaccine has variable effectiveness, even in the best of times, encourage your employees to do more and have a plan with a provider if they get sick despite getting vaccinated. Here are some ways you can help your employees take charge of their health.

Spotlight/facilitate hygiene:  A single cough or sneeze spreads infectious droplets several feet into the air in all directions.[1]

  • Consider posting reminders and strategic signage to help everyone remember hygiene basics, such as “Cover your cough” Or “Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after blowing your nose or coughing.”[2]
  • Provide easy access to soap and hand sanitizer at work—this encourages employees to wash and sanitize.
  • Viruses can be picked up from surfaces too, so recommend that employees disinfect/clean shared objects, such as phones, that may be contaminated.

Keep a distance: It’s wise to stay away from people who are sick. Policies allowing sick time can encourage employees to take needed time to get healthy, discourage disease transmission, and reduce presenteeism. Influenza can be spread from a day before symptoms arrive to 5-7 days after getting sick; other viruses are usually contagious for approximately a week. If an employee is sick, expect them to stay home until 24 hours after fever is gone or as a doctor directs.

Take antiviral medicine when appropriate: Most respiratory illnesses don’t respond to antibiotics or antiviral medication.[3] Flu diagnosis and taking anti-viral medication (Oseltamivir or Zanamivir) especially within 2 days of getting the flu can shorten illness and prevent serious complications or a hospital stay for people who are very sick or at risk of complications.  Encouraging health literacy around common illnesses and the proper role of antibiotics helps improve health and control costs.

Know when to get care:  If your organization offers our Health Advocacy service to your employees or members, Health Advocate can connect them to providers, support those with chronic conditions to plan for care, as well as provide flu vaccine (for clients who purchase flu shots). Encourage your employees to call Health Advocate to find a primary care provider, if they don’t already have one. It’s wise for employees to be proactive and plan with their provider about the flu ahead of time whenever possible.

[1] https://www.livescience.com/3686-gross-science-cough-sneeze.html

[2]  https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/etiquette/coughing_sneezing.html

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/index.html

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