When the first sniffle starts, it's not too late to roll out flu prevention measures in the workplace. By implementing a member education program in conjunction with health care providers, the fund is ideally situated to limit the spread of this debilitating illness.
Just what constitutes the flu? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu is a virus borne respiratory illness, which generally causes symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, chills and fatigue. The government agency also noted that there are three types in humans: A, B and C, with A and B being the more symptomatic and illness-inducing varieties. The two medical interventions for flu prevention are a preventive flu shot or an anti-viral given within 48 hours of symptom onset.
But if members or their families aren't vaccinated or don't receive a timely anti-viral, hospitalization may be required. And recent statistics reveal that the virulence of the flu is increasing and leading to higher hospitalization rates among certain populations. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), during the 2016-2017 flu season, the rate of hospitalization for influenza of adults aged 50 to 64 was 15.2 admissions per 100,000, and for children younger than 5 years old was 8.4 admissions per 100,000. Ensuring young children and adults older than 65 are vaccinated are also important parts of flu prevention efforts.
Worksites are perfect incubators for the flu virus to grow exponentially. Members may not be aware of several simple steps to keep it at bay while on the job.
Ensure Members Have a Clear Sick Leave Policy
Members who feel compelled to work through the flu endanger their health and put fellow members at risk of catching and spreading this virulent disease. Working with members to ensure workplace policies have strong provisions for sick leave will encourage them to use it when needed.
Educate Members on Preventive Measures
Taking common sense steps where the virus is present may be the most effective means of limiting the spread of the flu. The following recommendations can be brought forward through education:
- The fund can disseminate the flu prevention message through a variety of low-cost and effective educational measures, such as worksite posters or social media outreach.
- Encourage good hygiene by handwashing regularly and after coughing or sneezing. OSHA recommended 20 seconds of washing with hot water and soap or an alcohol-based gel.
- Don't shake hands or use phones of coworkers without disinfecting with alcohol wipes.
- The most effective way to prevent this person-to-person spread is for the ill member to remain home while symptomatic. OSHA recommended a self-quarantine from work for 24 hours after the member's fever ends.
Offer Free Flu Shots or Reimbursement
The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of flu by 40 percent to 60 percent, according to the CDC. Immunization rates could increase due to onsite clinics, as these reduce barriers to getting a shot. Also, reimbursement for shots received outside a doctor's visit may also encourage members to become immunized.
Funds that take measures to encourage immunizations can be leaders in flu prevention. This makes members more productive while the organization runs more smoothly.
Tracey Lewis, journalist and author focuses primarily on B2B health care, financial services and other internal corporate communications. Author of a best-selling pop-culture book published by Random House Books, and a trained oral historian, Tracey also enjoys delving into music, arts and film content. Skilled in SEO optimization and digital storytelling, she knows how to collaborate with communications, policy, research, legal and designer teams to create and execute cohesive content strategies.