Monday, January 14, 2013

How to Swat the Bug: Surviving the Flu Season at Work

Posted by Rose Strong

You sit at your desk and start to hear it. Someone in the corner cubicle sniffling and coughing, another in the restroom sneezing and blowing their nose. Then they start dropping like flies. The phone calls and emails start coming in saying your fellow employees are sick and staying home. It has arrived: flu season has settled in at your workplace.

How do you survive it?

This 2012-13 flu season started early and nasty, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Statistics show that hospital admissions are up across the country with 29 states showing elevated flu counts and it’s widespread across 47 states. According to FluView, but the CDC, 3,710 people have been hospitalized since October 2012 and 20 children have died.

Here in Pennsylvania , we have six counties impacted with cases totaling between 391 and 976 and other counties are not far behind. Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa , reported putting up a tent outside their emergency room to handle the overflow of flu cases. Currently, Philadelphia isn’t in the red zone on the Pennsylvania map, but is shown surrounded by counties with high flu tallies, so it would seem to only be a matter of time before it hits the metro area.

These aren’t numbers to sneeze at! The flu is serious. It’s not a cold that you just let run its course, but something to be avoided, if possible.

So, how do you make it from now until the end of this year’s flu season without succumbing to the infection? It isn’t easy, but there are ways to prolong your survival and possibly beat it. Of course, there are the standard practices of staying away from people with the flu, like those who refuse to stay home when they’re sick, but how do you do that when you have to interact?

Here are a few hints for staving off the bug as long as possible:

Get the flu shot. I know this is controversial; however, it is an option. If you decline the flu shot, there are some other worthwhile ways to fight the viral invasion mentioned in the article by Ragan.com, such as avoiding crowds and close contact with those infected and a few other ideas that may help.

Wash your hands. It’s the old saying that washing your hands will cut down on germs. It’s true, but do you know how to wash your hands? This article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives good advice. Washing hands every time you sneeze, cough or blow your nose can be impractical, but I keep a pump bottle of hand sanitizer on my desk for those occasions when I don’t want to jump up to run to the restroom for a full-blown hand washing session. Following the steps several times a day mentioned in the article is highly beneficial.

The flu goes techno. You may wind up with the flu despite all these preventative measures. Consider making a date with a recliner and a cup of tea. To occupy yourself, you may want to check out the following apps available on your smart phone or tablet. These may be helpful if you’re a business traveler or commute via public transportation. Some of these apps are appropriately medical in nature and would be great for those in health care and the general public, such as the CDC’s Influenza Application. Others are games or ways of tracking the flu to help with the boredom you  may experience when you’re down and out with the bug itself.

And remember, if you have the flu, don’t try to brave it out and go to work. Stay home. This Fox News video explains about the overall cost to employers and the loss of productivity due to the flu. In today’s business world, you may be able to work remotely for which your co-workers will thank you. But, even if you can’t work from home, it’s better to just stay home and avoid infecting the office. More than ever, we need to think about the number of people compacted into offices, classrooms, airplanes and the like and consider how we spread illness. Bacteria and viruses are transmitted via elevator buttons, door handles, computer keyboards, bus and train seats and the random pen you may pick up for a quick note and they hide in many other places not mentioned in this list.

You might consider seeing a doctor for some beneficial remedies  and perhaps eat some chicken soup , which even the medical community says has tremendous value to those who succumb to a yearly viral attack.

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