Every year influenza, or flu, epidemics results in substantial workplace absenteeism. Influenza can cost a company, not just in medical costs, but lost productivity as well. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that up to 111 million workdays are lost because of influenza, at an estimated $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity. With Continuwell, employees can talk with a nurse as soon as symptoms arise. Talking with a Continuwell nurse will even help to prevent the spread of the influenza virus by getting those who have been effected to treatment sooner, instead of employees bringing the virus to the office.
The CDC estimates that in 2015, across all age groups, there were 40 million flu illnesses, 19 million flu-associated medical visits and almost one hundred thousand flu-associated hospitalizations. Continuwell nurses offer these tips to educate employees on influenza and help prevent them from getting the virus.
What is it?: The influenza virus is a respiratory illness which can cause a sudden onset of chills, fever, body aches, and coughing. It does not tend to cause vomiting and diarrhea as many people believe, the gastrointestinal virus is not the same as influenza.
Stay Away!: People should be encouraged to avoid others that are coughing or appear ill. Many people will try to continue with their regular activities when they don’t feel well, including going to work, the gym, or the grocery store. Your staff should be encouraged to avoid these places until they are feeling better. Our nurses are also available to your staff, to speak to them if they have questions about what activities they should avoid.
Eat Right: While sleep is important to help the body rest and regain energy to fight off infections, fueling the body with the right foods is equally important. Fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats should be encouraged, along with plenty of non-caffeinated beverages to stay hydrated.
Wash your Hands: An overwhelming majority of viruses can be spread through sneezing and coughing. One does not have to be caught in the cross fire to be infected though; the virus can live on surfaces such as door handles, shopping cart handles, desks, light switches and many other surfaces. Your employees’ number one defense against this type of exposure is to wash their hands frequently with warm soapy water. Employees should avoid touching their mouth, nose or eyes as these orifices can allow the influenza or other viruses to enter the body.
Get Vaccinated: Studies show that getting vaccinated against the flu can reduce hospitalizations and lessen the severity of influenza, should one be infected. Everyone over the age of 6 months should be vaccinated annually against the influenza virus. While everyone should be vaccinated, it is extremely important for the elderly, the very young and those with compromised immune systems. These groups are at high risk for fatality if they become infected with the flu. There are several doses of vaccine available, but only the injectable flu shots are recommended this year. The live attenuated influenza vaccine, or the nasal spray vaccine, is not recommended for use during this upcoming flu season because of concerns about its effectiveness. Receiving one vaccination will continue to provide protection throughout one flu season. Employees concerned about the flu vaccine and side effects should speak to their providers or the Continuwell nurses to voice their concerns and have their questions answered.
Treatment: Because influenza is a virus, antibiotics are not effective. Treatment plans will be individualized based on each person’s symptoms and the Continuwell nurses and doctors will ensure your employees receive the treatment that is best for their symptoms. In general, acetaminophen or Ibuprofen can be used for fever and body aches. Aspirin should be avoided in children 16 years and younger due to the risk of developing Reyes Syndrome. People with the flu should stay home and rest, and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
While many people can manage their symptoms at home, the influenza virus is not to be taken lightly. Reports say, despite the recommendations that everyone over the age of 6 months be immunized annually, approximately 36,000 people die annually from the flu. Continuwell is available to employees to help determine if flu-like symptoms are serious and require additional precautions. Continuwell members can call our nurses to discuss a care plan to get them the treatment needed to get back to work faster, while not spreading the virus to colleagues.