How Influenza Can Spread Between People
Influenza is thought to be primarily spread when infected people cough, sneeze or talk, sending infectious droplets into the air and into contact with other people nearby. To a lesser degree, human influenza is spread by touching objects contaminated with influenza viruses and then transferring the infected material from the hands to the nose, mouth or eyes.
Flu Season: Protecting Workforce Health And Stopping Presenteeism
What You Need to Know
With flu season outbreaks known to occur as early as October, it is time to prepare to take action to ensure the health of your employees and productivity of your workplace.
As the year draws to a close, employers and safety managers typically begin to dread winter flu seasonand the costs and operational disruptions it can bring.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , statistical spikes in worker absences from December through March are related to seasonal illnesses, such as influenza. As a result of these absences, a 2015 study compiled by Smart Asset showed that national productivity losses could be as high as $10 billion each year, not including medical costs.
Time To Vaccinate As Flu Season Looms
With the start of the influenza season looming, employers should now be planning their flu offensive under Queensland Health advice that annual vaccination is the most important measure to prevent the virus.
Recommended for all people aged six months and over, it is important to note the vaccine is not immediately effective and it generally takes 10 to 14 days for you to be fully protected.
Flu viruses can spread when the respiratory droplets or aerosols created by an infected person from coughing, sneezing or talking, are breathed in by another person. Flu viruses can also contaminate surfaces, such as doorknobs, and spread when a person touches those surfaces and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
Workers should be reminded that protecting themselves against influenza also helps to safeguard people more vulnerable than they are. Having the flu vaccine each year is the best form of protection, and employers are urged to encourage workers to get the flu shot if they can. They should also advise sick workers to stay home and not spread the disease.
Employers should consider funding a flu vaccination program for staff and ensure good hygiene standards around the workplace. While the flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu, a layered risk management approach is essential. The associated cost of vaccination may be offset by reduced sick-leave and absenteeism.
Additional risk prevention measures include:
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Protect Employees And Customers
Educate and train employees in proper hand hygiene, cough etiquette, other flu prevention strategies and social distancing techniques. Encourage all employees to get a seasonal flu vaccine in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. Understand and develop work practice and engineering controls that could provide additional protection to your employees and customers, such as: drive.
Helping Stop The Spread Of Germs
Step one in preventing the flu from devastating your facility is helping your employees to stay healthy. Taking flu precautions in the workplace means stopping the spread of germs.
Anaya Green, a facial category manager for Kimberly-Clark, says simple steps like making sure employees have access to tissues and hand sanitizer stations can make a big difference.
Being proactive is critical, Green says. A sneeze can send 100,000 germs across a distance of 5 to 32 feet. And droplets that remain airborne can travel through ventilation systems.
That means encouraging employees to cover their mouths and noses when they sneeze or cough is particularly important. If tissues arent within reach, employees can sneeze or cough into their elbows. Good hand hygienevigorous hand-washing or the use of hand sanitizercan eliminate germs.
Keeping common surfaces clean and disinfected is another key tactic for taking flu precautions in the workplace. The CDC recommends that employers routinely clean frequently touched objects and surfaces.
There are so many surfaces that are contaminated, Green says. Bathroom sink faucets, door handles, water fountains and even elevator buttons can all be covered in germs. Germs can live up to 8 to 12 hours on porous surfaces and up to 48 hours on nonporous surfaces, she says.
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What About Workers Who Regularly Come Into Contact With The Public
To help prevent spread of infection, the Department of Health recommend that people who are ill stay at home and suggest that relatives, neighbours etc collect food, medicines etc for them. This measure should help limit the number of symptomatic individuals in public places. Therefore it should not be necessary for workers to wear masks routinely when in contact with the general public. There may though be some situations when it will be advisable for a worker to wear a mask. Such a situation will depend on the nature of the work, where it is to be carried out and the outcome of the risk assessment that should, amongst other things, gauge:
- Whether it is reasonably foreseeable that workers may come into close contact with symptomatic members of the public during the course of their work
- If workers are likely to encounter symptomatic members of the public, whether any measures can be taken to minimise contact. For example, in a healthcare setting it is highly likely that contact with the public will include persons who have symptoms of influenza. But in a sports/leisure facility for example, people using the facilities are very unlikely to have symptoms of influenza because people with flu do not generally take exercise
- the duration and frequency of contact with members of the public.
Other Sources Of Information
General advice on assessing and controlling the risks from infection at work as well as guidance on other protective measures can be found at:
- Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens: Infection at Work: Controlling the Risks 2003
- Fit testing of respiratory protective equipment facepieces
- Sector-specific guidance from Department of Health
- Hand-washing technique with soap and water: NHS Poster
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Preventing The Spread Of The Flu
Even if this years vaccine is not a good match and even if most people in the office fail to get vaccinated, there are other steps you can take to keep workers healthy. After University of Arizona researchers discovered how quickly viruses spread in that 80-person campus office, they repeated their experiment. This time, however, they first implemented a healthy workplace initiative that include hygiene instructions and free tissues and hand sanitiser. This time, the rate of infection dropped below 10 per cent. The take-home message here is that very simple interventions that we all kind of know about have great efficacy, said Associate Professor Kelly Reynolds, a co-principal investigator on the study. Using tissues to wipe your face, using hand sanitizer or having it available for use and washing your hands before lunch and after a big meeting resulted in an 80 per cent reduction across the board, for all three viruses, in their risk of infection.
Of course, those same measures also protect people against the common cold, stomach bugs and other communicable illnesses. For example, the average adult has two to four colds each year, while the average child has six to 10 colds each year and those mostly occur during flu season.
Flu accounts for around 159 million working days lost across high-income countries and for those aged 50-64, this loss in productivity costs the global economy $39 billion per year.
Taking A Shot At The Flu At Work
Workplace influenza immunization clinics are cost-effective, comprehensive measures that employers can take to improve employee health and safety
Getting your shot has never been more top-of-mind for Canadians. Although most are currently focused on the COVID-19 vaccine, its not the only vaccine your doctor probably wants you to take this year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world over the past year and has increased awareness of health and safety practices that can help prevent airborne viruses such as the one that causes COVID-19. Increased hand sanitizing, the wearing of masks, and physical distancing have all been promoted as ways to curb the coronavirus. These were methods already recommended as ways to mitigate the spread of another disease that was commonly spread in workplaces and other public areas before the pandemic influenza.
Influenza, or the flu, has taken a back seat to COVID-19 in recent months, but its still a serious disease that causes up to 3,500 deaths annually and more than 12,000 hospitalizations in Canada, federal government numbers reveal. The safety measures in place to minimize the spread of COVID-19 have helped reduce the spread of the flu this year, but it doesnt mean people should forget about it.
Seqirus, a global influenza vaccine manufacturing and research company will be presenting a free webinar, Flu immunization in your workplace: an integral part of health and safety, HR professionals can access the webinar here.
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What Steps Should I Take To Prevent An Influenza Outbreak In My Workplace
The safety measures to prevent spread of both viruses are the same: social distancing, hand hygiene, wearing a mask and staying home when sick. If the COVID-19 health and safety protocols are already in place in your workplace, they will also reduce the risk of an influenza outbreak.
Here are some tips to prevent influenza spread in your workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Advise your employees to get a flu shot
Encourage your staff to get vaccinated against influenza. You could offer your employees time off to go get vaccinated or set up a flu vaccine clinic at your workplace. A flu shot takes two weeks to take effect and should be taken as soon as possible.
Though the flu shot may not be a 100% effective, it will help make the flu symptoms less severe in case one gets sick. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization advises that everybody 6 months of age and older without contraindications should get the flu shot every year.
This year, the governments in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia are offering the flu vaccine free of charge to all age groups.
Review sick leave policies
Advise your staff to use their sick leave and stay at home in case they experience flu-like symptoms. You may want to offer extra sick leave to your employees or allow them to combine it with vacation leave to be able to get enough rest and recover fully before returning to work.
Have a daily screening procedure in place
Have a response protocol ready for positive cases
Be Prepared To Take Time Off When Cold Or Flu Hit
To ensure you are able to take time off work when you have cold or flu, it is important to make plans to ensure your job gets done while you are away. Try to train at least one other person to do your job so they can cover for you in periods of illness. If you work in an office, talk to your employers about providing facilities that allow you to work from home when you are contagious but not feeling sick enough for time off work, such as remote meeting and teleconferencing facilities.
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How Are The Agents That Cause Influenza And Pandemic Influenza Classified Under The Control Of Substances Hazardous To Health Regulations 2002
The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens met in May 2005 to discuss and review advice on influenza viruses. ACDP has produced a generic assessment of the risks of the different types of influenza virus that can be used as the basis for local risk assessment. It made recommendations about the containment level at which certain types of influenza virus should be handled. Details of the relevant ACDP classification recommendations can be found at: HSE Advice on working with influenza viruses
Sick Leave And Family Responsibility Leave
Most employees have the right to take up to three days of unpaid job-protected sick leave each calendar year due to personal illness, injury or medical emergency. In addition, most employees have the right to take up to three days of unpaid, job-protected family responsibility leave due to the illness, injury or medical emergency of certain relatives. Special rules apply to some occupations.
Employees are entitled to up to three days of sick leave and three days of family responsibility leave per year as soon as they have worked at least two consecutive weeks for an employer. An employee who missed part of a day to take sick or family responsibility leave would be entitled to any wages they actually earned while working.
Read more information on sick leave and family responsibility leave.
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Keep Visitors With Cold And Flu Away From Workplaces
If your workplace attracts lots of visitors , the people who visit your workplace can also spread viruses like cold and flu if they are infected. Visitors should also be encouraged to stay away when they are ill. In workplaces such as hospitals, visitors may be screened for influenza infection before they are allowed to enter, particularly at times of influenza outbreak. If you work at or your children attend a childcare centre or schools, there may be a policy requesting that children with influenza or similar illness stay at home, or that staff are informed of the infection so that appropriate strategies can be put in place to prevent the cold or flu spreading. Where it is not possible to keep visitors with cold or flu away from a workplace, wearing protective equipment and cohorting those with flu or flu-like illnesses may prevent transmission to uninfected individuals. For example, a childcare centre may keep all children with colds in a separate room so they dont infect the other children.
Educate Employees And Refer To Trusted Sources
Educating employees on health-related issues and updates can pay off in the long run. The CDC continues to be among the top trusted sources for finding the most up-to-date facts and information. And as laws, regulations, and guidance related to COVID-19 continues to evolve, employers must continue to monitor their obligations under federal, state and local laws.
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Promoting Vaccination In The Workplace
Take action to keep your workplace healthy this flu season. Consider offering free on-site flu vaccinations) at your business locations. If your business cannot offer flu vaccine clinics onsite, encourage employees to seek flu vaccination in the community. Making annual flu vaccinations part of your workplace wellness program offers many benefits to you and your employees.
- Reduces cost by decreasing time missed from work to get vaccinated
- Reduces cost by reducing absences due to illness, resulting in improved productivity
- Vaccination often already covered under employee health plans
- Improves morale
- Reduces absences due to sickness and doctor visits
- Improves health
- Improves morale
Hosting a Flu Vaccination Clinic
The planning process should also include input from management, human resources, employees, and labor representatives, as appropriate.
Hosting & Promotion
- Provide a comfortable and convenient location for flu vaccination clinics. Consider the demands of space and need for privacy.
- Set an example by encouraging managers and business leaders to get vaccinated first.
Influenza Can Be Serious
The flu is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications, including pneumonia.
Influenza isnt like the common cold, it can hit quickly and last for a few weeks, meaning time off work or school and staying away from family and friends. For vulnerable Australians, like young children, the elderly and people with a weakened immune system, the flu can have serious and devastating outcomes.
If you are around infants, pregnant women, older people or immunocompromised people while you have influenza, you are putting them at serious risk.
Each year the flu affects thousands of Australians and puts an enormous amount of pressure on our hospitals and health system. Over 3,500 avoidable deaths occur in Australia every year from complications of seasonal flu.
It takes an average of two weeks to recover from flu. Thats a long time for work and chores to pile up.
If you get the influenza vaccine, you can avoid:
- spreading influenza to at-risk people
- getting ill yourself
- having to put your life on hold.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms
The symptoms are similar to ‘ordinary’ flu but may be more severe: characteristically sudden onset of fever, headache, severe weakness and fatigue, aching muscles and joints and respiratory symptoms such as cough, sore throat, and runny nose. Complications include bronchitis and pneumonia deaths can occur.
Cold And Flu Prevention
Cold and flu spread more easily in the cold winter months because they thrive in colder, less humid environments. More people become infected with colds and flus in winter. In Australia, cold and flu infections are most likely to occur between May and September. At this time you have a higher risk of contracting colds and flus at work, because it is more likely your colleagues will catch colds and flus which they can pass on at work. That means youre more likely to need time off work in winter to recover from a cold or flu, and this may interfere with work deadlines and your productivity at work.
Whether you work in an office, healthcare facility or other workplace, you are at risk of contracting a virus at work, from your colleagues or people who visit your workplace . While cold and flu viruses spread rapidly in indoor environments like offices, they can also spread in outdoor work environments, when they become airborne or contaminate a surface that many people touch, like the handle of a tool.
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