How to prevent a Flu outbreak in your Workplace
22nd May 2019
The flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes lungs. The flu spreads mostly from person to person and the people with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins.
During flu season, which typically starts in October with the height of the season in January/February, the workplace can become a breeding ground for germs. Research has shown that the flu virus can spread through your office in a matter of hours and the main culprit isn’t necessarily your sneezing and coughing co-worker. The quickest way viruses are passed around is when people touch and infect commonly used objects and surfaces.
This means the real germ hotspots in the office are shared items like doorknobs, the kettle, the photocopier, the fridge and the microwave. Flu viruses can last up to 24 hours on surfaces, so it’s easy for them to spread just by human contact alone.
There are many ways to protect your workforce from getting the flu.
- Flu Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your team against the flu. The flu vaccination saves the UK economy up to £28.9m in sick day costs by preventing up to 626,000 cases of influenza per year in England. Kays Medical can provide flu vaccination clinics across one or multiple sites, nationwide.
- Disinfect frequently used items like your keyboard, mouse and phone, along with your hands, with an anti-bacterial solution; view our Responsebeta™ Disinfectant range.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use paper towels to dry your hands instead of a communal towel. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you or sneeze if you are sick. Throw the used tissue in the trash and wash your hands. Avoid shaking hands or touching common surfaces like the kettle and if you do, make sure you disinfect the area afterwards.
- Stay home if you feel ill. You’re most contagious in the first three to four days after the onset of your symptoms.
- Boost your immune system by eating healthy foods and getting a good night’s sleep.
If you and or one of your colleagues start to feel unwell, check to see if you have the symptoms associated with the flu, which may include:
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- body aches
- fever (in some cases)
- diarrhea and vomiting (in some cases)
You may be able to spread the flu virus a day before you even notice symptoms. You’ll also remain contagious for up to five to seven days after becoming ill.
Most people who get sick with the flu won’t need medical care or antiviral drugs. You can simply rest, drink a lot of fluids, and take over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen to lower fever and treat aches and pains.
To prevent the spread of the virus, you should also avoid contact with other people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone down without having to take fever-reducing medication.
If you’re at a greater risk for complications from the flu, your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs as a treatment option. These medications can lessen the symptoms and shorten the time you’re ill if taken within two days of becoming sick.
When to see a doctor
People who are considered to have a high risk of complications from the flu include young children, pregnant women, adults over the age of 65, and those with medical conditions like asthma and heart disease.
If you fall into one of these categories, you should contact your doctor as soon as you develop symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends antiviral treatment within two days after the onset of your illness.
Those who are treated within this timeframe usually experience less severe symptoms. The medication also tends to shorten illness duration by about one day.
Some complications of the flu can be mild, such as sinus and ear infections. Others can be serious and life-threatening, such as pneumonia.
Most flu symptoms typically subside within one week. But you should seek medical attention immediately if you experience the following warning signs:
- trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- symptoms that get better, then return and worsen
Moving in to 2019 Flu Season…
The best way to protect yourself from catching the flu in the workplace is to get a flu vaccine every year. Getting the flu vaccine can lower your risk of being hospitalised from the flu by about 40 percent.
Practicing simple measures such as washing hands often and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces can also reduce the spread of the virus at the office. In one study, after adopting these routines, the risk of infection in an office environment dropped below 10 percent.
Also, make sure to use your sick days if you come down with the flu so you don’t put your co-workers at risk of catching the virus.
To arrange a flu vaccination clinic, call 0843 504 8146.