Workplace health: November is Flu Awareness Month

Influenza (commonly known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe symptoms, and at times can lead to death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from flu complications.

The best way to prevent the flu is by receiving a flu vaccination each fall. The Center has designated November as Flu Awareness Month to encourage all Americans to get the flu shot.

Every year in the United States, on average 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and; about 36,000 people die from flu. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

Ways to keep your workplace safe and employees healthy during flu season:

Host a flu clinic. Provide flu shots on company grounds as part of your employee wellness program. For information about hosting a flu clinic visit the American Lung Association’s Online Flu Clinic Locator.

Educate employees on the benefits of the flu shot. Distribute information that encourages employees to get the flu vaccination and debunk myths that you can get the flu from a flu shot (the vaccine does not contain live viruses). Hang posters around the office on the importance of prevention and the dangers of the flu.

Review sick leave/absence policies. Ensure your policy does not punish employees for being sick, because employees who feel they will be disciplined will be more inclined to come to work no matter how ill they may be.

Encourage employees to take preventative measures. Inform employees on the most effective ways they can work to stay healthy in the office. The most important prevention activity - washing hands with soap and water often. Make sure bathrooms are stocked with soap and paper towels and go one step further by providing hand sanitizers and tissues in common rooms.

If the flu makes its way into the office, proceed with caution. Minimize employees’ exposure to the flu by limiting face-to-face meetings, consider telecommuting and hold off on typical business greetings like handshakes for a period of time.

For more information on the 2008-2009 flu season visit the CDC website.

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