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- The 2018 flu season has been one of the worst in years.
- Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say they’re seeing “widespread” instances of the flu in 49 states, and it’s the first time many states have been slammed by the flu at the same time in more than a decade.
- The 2018 flu season is also having a drastic economic effect on employers.
The flu is widespread in 49 US states right now, Business Insider’s Hilary Brueck reports, and CDC officials say the 2018 flu season “is proving particularly difficult.”
The CDC reports that across the country, hospitals are seeing roughly twice the typical baseline of patients with flu-like symptoms, Brueck reports. And the 2017 flu shot isn’t working very well against one of the most common strains of the virus.
What’s more, global outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. estimates that the flu could cost employers more than $9.4 billion in lost productivity.
To calculate this cost, Challenger factored in the number of illnesses for adults during the previous flu season, the current employment to population ratio of 60.1%, and the average hourly wage, allowing for four sick days for each employee to recover from the flu.
So what can you do to help stop the spread of flu?
Don’t go to work when you’re sick. In fact, the CDC recommends that if you have flu symptoms, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. Flu symptoms typically include (but you may not have all of them) fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.
Stay home and recover.The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine. The only exceptions are to get medical care or other necessities.
If you haven’t gotten sick yet, get vaccinated anyway. According to the CDC, antibodies made in response to vaccination with one flu virus can sometimes provide protection against different but related viruses. So even though the 2017 flu shot isn’t working very well against what is most commonly going around right now, it can still provide some protection against the flu.
Spreading the flu to your coworkers comes at a high cost for businesses, so it’s also up to employers to discourage people from coming into work sick.
More than a quarter of American workers admit to having gone to work while sick, and employees are incentivized to tough it out for a number of reasons, including fear of penalization, an overwhelming workload, lost wages, or fear of losing their job.
According to one CDC study, workers miss out on about $6.2 billion a year in wages thanks to lost productivity from illness.
Offering paid sick leave (and being clear about how people can use it) is one key way to help mitigate these fears.
A recent study out of Florida Atlantic University found that, unsurprisingly, US workers without paid sick leave are more likely than those with paid sick leave to keep going to work when they’re ill.
Those who get paid for sick days are more likely to “self-quarantine when necessary, without the worries of losing their job or income, while also not spreading illness to others,” said lead study author LeaAnne DeRigne.