What is Influenza?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the influenza virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.
Symptoms of Flu
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (very tired)
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
Each year’s seasonal flu vaccine is different, and protects against several different influenza viruses that research suggests will be most common during that season. For example, the 2011-2012 flu vaccine protected against an influenza A H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the 2009 H1N1 virus that caused so much illness that year. There are two types of flu vaccines:
- The “flu shot”–an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle. The seasonal flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women.
- The nasal–spray flu vaccine –a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”). LAIV is approved for use in healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.
For more information on the flu and to find a flu clinic near you, visit pandemicflu.gov
Developing Your Plan
- Educate employees about the flu
- Establish attendance guidelines
- Communicate with employees and clients
- Develop an assignment sheet of who covers whom during an absence
- Research health coverage and screenings available to employees
- Identify who can work from home and determine the process for conducting business at home.
- Cross-train employees, supervisors and managers to cover other departments and geographic locations.
- Make a priority list of every company location and the distance between them in case someone has to come in from another location. Have directions to get from one location to the next.
- Develop a relationship with your local temporary personnel agencies for fill-in employees as needed.
- Evaluate and update your human resource, sick leave and insurance policies.
- Compare and combine best practices with your vendors to ensure your needs are always covered.
Preparing the Workplace
- Encourage employees to get flu vaccines. If possible, offer vaccines free of charge or for a nominal fee at your place of business.
- Publicize information about the availability of flu vaccines offered in your local communities, such as at doctors’ offices, hospitals and retail pharmacies.
- Hang posters that encourage everyone to take maximum risk prevention, including covering their mouth when they sneeze or cough, and washing their hands.
- Providing alcohol-based hand sanitizer in kitchens, bathrooms and other heavily-trafficked areas.
- Clean all public-area surfaces with germ-killing solutions