How To Stay Safe From The Flu At Work This Year

13 Jan

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This year’s flu season is off to an early and ugly start. According to the CDC, and probably to the guy hacking next to you on the subway, this year’s flu has affected people sooner and more severely than in previous years. Over 2,250 people have already been hospitalized this season, and 18 pediatric deaths have been reported. And it’s only the beginning of January.

The flu has affected people on both coasts and almost everywhere in between. It’s hit densely populated particularly hard – in fact, 29 states, and New York City, have reported high levels of influenza-like illness (or ILI). Over the last four weeks, says the CDC, the percentage of flu sufferers visiting their health care providers for symptoms has risen from 2.8 to 5.6%. In Chicago, flu patients are apparently being turned away from hospitals, so large is the influxRiding the subway and working in tight quarters are excellent ways to pick up the virus, particularly if you touch your face or mouth a lot. If you work in an office, make sure to wash your hands at regular intervals, especially after touching shared objects or surfaces like coffee pots, elevator buttons, the Xerox machine, office supplies, and doorknobs. Remind kids to wash their hands with soap throughout the school day, and then again when they get home.Why this year’s season has been earlier and more severe than others is hard to say, but it could be because of the type of flu virus that’s predominating, the one known as H3N2. “[T]ypically ‘H3N2 seasons’ have been more severe, with higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, but we will have to see how the season plays out,” says Joe Bresee, the Chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in CDC’s Influenza Division. Luckily, most of the viruses – about 91% – that have been identified as circulating this season are the ones included in this year’s flu vaccine. The 2009 H1N1 virus (sometimes referred to as “Swine flu”) has also been reported as one of the more common circulating types.

Since the flu can put you out of commission for a week or more, if you think you’re coming down with it or with something else nasty, try working from home, if you you’re set up for it, rather than taking the risk of infecting your office. There are programs that allow you to access your work computer remotely, and of course teleconferencing or Skyping can allow you to “attend” office meetings from home.

Though the vaccine won’t protect everybody, the CDC still recommends getting vaccinated as a first line of defense. And, if one gets the flu and is in a high-risk group, talking about antiviral medication, like oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) or zanamivir (Relenza®), with your doctors is also recommended. Elderly people, kids, and those with compromised immune systems are at particular risk with the flu. Whether you’re in one of these groups or not, it’s a good idea to do what you can do avoid contracting the flu, and to take care of yourself, and those around you, if you do get it.

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2013/01/08/the-flu-strikes-hard-symp…

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