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The Office Flu – Keep Office Germs at Bay This Flu Season

December 7, 2015

Keep Office Germs at Bay This Flu Season

Hello! Dr. Kaplan here from NextCare Urgent Care and we’re talking about Flu in the office today.  It’s mid December, and cold and flu season is just getting started throughout the nation.  So, today, we’ll give you some tricks and tips that you can do to keep the Flu out of your place of business and protect yourself from the potential harmful ailments of the office flu.

The threat cold-and-flu season poses to companies isn’t something to sneeze at. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu alone costs U.S. companies $10.4 billion in direct costs including hospitalizations and outpatient visits. The CDC also estimates up to one-fifth of the U.S. population will get the flu in a given flu season, and more than 200,000 Americans will be hospitalized with seasonal, flu-related complications.

Firstly, though, I think it’s important to talk about how the Flu is spread.

According to the Center for Disease Control, most cough, cold and flu viruses are thought to be passed from person to person by contact with respiratory droplets.  People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away.

  • Contact can occur by direct bodily contact (such as kissing) or touching something with virus on it (such as shaking hands with someone who has the flu) and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Respiratory droplets are generated by a person coughing or sneezing and can be propelled right into your eyes, nose or mouth over short distances.
  • Adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before getting symptoms and up to one week after getting sick. Children can be infectious even longer, sometimes up to several weeks.

That means that you can give someone the flu before you know you’re sick as well as while you are sick.

When we are in our workspaces – whether it be a large office, a cubicle, or here in the medical center, we’re in very close proximity to our coworkers, inside of that 6-foot rule.  That’s why prevention is so important.

So what can you do to help prevent the spread of flu in your office?

Get the Flu Shot

This may sound like a no-brainer, and there are a lot of myths and facts regarding the effectiveness of a flu shot.  Consequently, a recent Consumer Reports survey of 1,500 U.S. adults found that only 37 percent plan to be vaccinated.

The “flu shot”  is an inactivated vaccine – containing killed flu virus cells, that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.

Seasonal flu vaccines protect against the three influenza viruses (trivalent) that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. The viruses in the vaccine can change each year based on international research and scientists’ estimations about which types and strains of viruses will circulate in a given year.

While it’s not a be-all, end-all prevention for Flu – the shot will definitely prevent those three most common virus strains during a given year.

Wash Your Hands With Soap and Water Several Times per day.

This may be gross, but you’d be surprised at just how many people DON’T wash their hands enough during the day.   Let’s say you just went to the copier at work.  You probably just touched some Flu Germs.

It’s true — germs can live on any surface for two hours or more. If someone in your office or school is infected, those germs can reside on anything they’ve touched — desks, phones, coffee pots, microwaves, cafeteria tables.  What’s the germiest?  Keyboards and mice.

When you wash your hands, use soap and warm water — and rub hands for 15 to 20 seconds. Then rinse and dry.

Besides just washing hands.One flu prevention strategy: Keep gel sanitizers close at hand. If a sink isn’t nearby, a gel sanitizer or an alcohol-based hand wipe is easy to grab to clean dirty hands. The gel doesn’t need water to work; just rub hands until the gel is dry. Most supermarkets and drugstores carry these wipes and gels.

Tell sick employees to stay home.

Do employees feel comfortable taking sick days when they’re really sick? It’s your job as a leader to make sure employees know they should stay home when they’re contagious.   Additionally, companies could offer telecommuting options for contagious employees.

And Finally…

Cover your mouth when you cough. During flu season, it’s the best advice you can give anyone who wants to avoid the flu.

Here’s a familiar scenario: The elevator is crowded, and someone’s sneezing. What can you do to protect yourself? To avoid those flying flu droplets, turn your face away. Put your sleeve or your hands over your face.

The bottom line is that the odds aren’t in your favor – you’re probably going to get the flu.  Come into NextCare, get a flu shot, and follow these tips to help prevent the spread of the flu in your workplace.