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How to Protect Yourself Against Flu in the Workplace

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on May 13, 2020 at 9:29 AM

With the coronavirus pandemic making the rounds, it’s easy to forget that there are other diseases that can harm your workers.

In fact, there’s another virus that infects so many people every year that its seasonal incidence rate can only be estimated: the influenza virus, a.k.a. the flu.

The flu is not generally dangerous, so it’s easy to neglect it in this time of crisis. But controlling flu infections can actually help reduce the number of people going into clinics with nonspecific coronavirus - like symptoms, thus lowering their overall risk of actually contracting the coronavirus.

Here’s how your workers can protect themselves against flu in the workplace.

Get Your Flu Shot

The flu is so widespread and spreads so easily that the best protection is preventative. Get your flu shot, get it early, and get it every single year.

The seasonal flu vaccine is not a protection against the flu for the rest of your life, like the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. It also doesn’t protect you against every version of the flu. The vaccine protects you against the most common strain of the flu that year, which may be different than next year’s strain.

The idea is to get vaccinated so that you don’t spread the flu to those who are vulnerable to severe infections, or those with immune-compromised family members.

Practice Good Cough Etiquette (and Avoid Those Who Don’t)

Fun fact: you cannot catch the flu from being underdressed, going outside without a coat, stepping outside in cold weather with wet hair, or by sitting near a drafty window. Flu season often coincides with cold weather, so people think cold exposure equals the flu, but the only way to catch the flu is through exposure to the influenza virus.

The flu can spread from an infected person to a healthy person about six feet away. Experts believe this primarily happens when a healthy person comes in contact with droplets created when a sick person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

This is why those who are sick are encouraged to cough or sneeze into a tissue covering their mouth and nose, throwing away the tissue afterward. If you don’t have a tissue, you should at least turn away from others and cough into your elbow, not your hands.

Be a good neighbor and practice good cough etiquette. And if someone around you is practicing bad coughing etiquette, stay away.

Wash Your Hands

Finally, germs often spread when a healthy person touches something a sick person has touched. The best protection is to wash your hands.

You should wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds or more. You can count it out or sing the “Happy Birthday” song from start to finish twice. Then, rinse your hands thoroughly under running water and dry them with a clean towel.

Avoiding Flu in the Workplace

Stopping the spread of flu in the workplace is one of the many ways you can help ensure employee safety during this difficult time. And while you can’t control what every employee does, implementing even a few basic safety measures can make a world of difference.

For more advice on keeping your employees healthy during this difficult time, make sure to check out our blog for more useful tips, like these major emerging infectious diseases to watch for in 2020.

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, Coronavirus

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