The 2017-2018 flu season was particularly brutal in California, claiming the lives of more than 300 people. That’s more deaths than occurred during the previous three flu seasons combined. And it’s the second highest total in California since the H1N1 pandemic of 2009-10.
It’s impossible to predict if the current (2018-19) flu season will be as bad, but one thing we’re certain of—it’s here and will likely continue into the spring, with the peak season typically between December and February. That means taking precautions at work to help prevent any sick employees from spreading the illness to others.
How the flu virus spreads
The flu (or influenza) virus spreads when people who are infected cough, sneeze, and talk. People with the flu are most contagious during the first three to four days after their illness begins, but they may not experience the symptoms until about two days after the virus enters their body. This means an employee infected with the virus could unknowingly spread it to coworkers at your workplace.
The best defense is a good offense
Get the flu shot. Now. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say the flu vaccine is the best protection against the virus. Check with your doctor’s office or local pharmacy for availability. It takes the body about two weeks to fully respond and develop antibodies from the vaccine to protect against the virus. In fact, many pharmacies and clinics already have the flu shot available.
Help keep your employees healthy and on the job
Employee absenteeism costs employers time and money. It may be more cost-effective to fund workplace vaccination programs by offering an onsite flu clinic, partnering with a pharmacy to get a discount, or allowing paid time off to get the vaccination.
Practice good hygiene
Proper hand washing ranks high on the list of ways to prevent the spread of viruses. Encourage your employees to frequently wash their hands with soap and water, to lather up, and rinse and dry thoroughly. Cleaning shared surfaces and equipment regularly such as the keyboard and mouse, telephone receiver, and working surfaces with alcohol-based disinfectant wipes is another important practice.
When someone gets sick
If any of your employees do come down with the flu, encourage them to stay home. Remind them to cover their mouth and nose when sneezing and ask them to use a tissue if available or sneeze into their sleeve rather than their hands.
Most adults who become ill from the virus will recover in a few days. However, remind your employees to seek medical attention if they develop complications.
For more information, CDC developed a one-page flow diagram on how the flu travels.
The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.