Each year as the seasons change, so do the needs for improving flu prevention. Staples spoke directly with the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) to get the top three tips to help small businesses protect themselves from flu outbreaks. See below for some insight on what can be done to ensure that your company has the healthiest season yet.
Tip 1: Encourage flu vaccination for all of your employees
The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a vaccination every year.
For a small business, flu can be a big disruption. Influenza vaccinations offer substantial benefit, reducing illnesses, doctors' visits and lost work from flu, as well as preventing hospitalizations. To help businesses, employers and their employees should learn about flu prevention.
Work-site vaccine clinics give all employees easy access to flu vaccinations, and they've been shown to increase immunization rates and, in turn, reduce flu-related absenteeism at work. Pharmacies and community vaccinators can be contracted to provide seasonal flu vaccination services on site. It is worth the effort, because a vaccinated workforce means healthier and more productive employees.
Tip 2: Share tips about good health habits to help protect employees against the flu
Disseminate basic information to keep your employees informed and likely to stay protected from the flu. This basic information include everyday actions:
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If possible, stay home from work when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness. The CDC recommends staying home until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medication, except to get medical care or for other necessities.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.
- Wash often with hand soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth because germs spread this way.
- If you get the flu, take antiviral drugs if they are recommended by your doctor. Antiviral drugs can help treat your illness. They also can make flu illness milder and shorten the time you are sick.
Tip 3: Give employees access to supplies to help create a healthy workplace
Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu is important in preventing a flu outbreak in your workplace. Keep a variety of cleaning supplies accessible to employees so they can help in these efforts.
Additionally, having tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs and disposable wipes available in the workplace can help each individual employee do their best to prevent the spread of germs. Even if no one in the workplace is sick, there is a good chance employees will come into contact with the flu when they go out to grab lunch or even at home.
How Bad Will the Flu Be This Year?
Flu seasons are unpredictable in their timing, duration and severity. It's possible different parts of the country will experience flu outbreaks at different times. Generally speaking, flu activity tends to begin to rise in October and can last as late as May. Most often, activity is highest during January and February. The CDC uses a variety of surveillance methods to track the spread of flu, such as monitoring physician office visits, performing laboratory tests and conducting population surveys.
To see where flu is active near you, check FluView for current flu activity, or check with your local/state health departments for information on flu activity in your area. You can find additional CDC flu resources here.