Dr. Ernest Levister
Flu is especially bad this season. The predominant strain, H3N2, isn’t well prevented by the flu vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said early estimates put its effectiveness at about 30 percent, versus 60 percent for the flu shot at its best.
Nationally hospital visits from patients with flu-like symptoms have skyrocketed on pace with the 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 flu seasons. The flu has killed 30 children this season, and is being called the worst since the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after fever subsides, without the help of fever-reducing medication.
But not all flu comes with fever. The flu can spread not just through coughing and sneezing, but even through breathing.
But many workers feel they have to show up. Some of it is very traditional and even macho. There is a myth that if you wait one or two days, you are no longer contagious. That’s not necessarily true. As long as you have symptoms and are exposing germs to your hands or the air, you are contagious.”
So, what can we do to help avoid the spread of flu? In addition to staying home, public health officials also universally recommend getting the flu vaccine.
Even though it isn’t a perfect vaccine, and even though the efficacy isn’t as high as we want, any degree of efficacy is better than no degree of efficacy at all. CDC officials say we still have a lot of flu left that’s going to be seen in the future, over the next several weeks to a month or more, so if you are not vaccinated, you should get vaccinated.”
Other things we can do:
- cover coughs and sneezes
- wash hands with soap and water
- avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated
- take antiviral flu medications like Tamiflu if prescribed
Still, many of us will feel compelled to go to work even when we’re sick. And this is where employers can step in, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a unit of the U.S. Department of Labor. It recommends employers create flexible policies that encourage avoiding the office when sick.
Consider working from home or staying home to recover when you are indeed sick. When employees try to power through when they are sick, they may actually prolong their recovery time while also exposing colleagues to the sickness. If managers and supervisors “model this behavior,” employees will follow your lead.
It can be particularly difficult for workers on an hourly wage. Sometimes they don’t have very good sick benefits. They may lose salary, and if they don’t show up, you hear anecdotes where they lose the job.
Experience suggests we all could be doing better. Recent studies show 75 percent of almost 400 respondents have gone to work even when they worried they might be contagious.