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With the 2017-2018 flu season recorded as one of the worst in recent years, many employees were likely forced to take a sick day (or two). Calling off sick helps prevents the spread of disease, but all those absences can affect a business' daily output and overall efficiency.

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September 10, 2018

According to a study published in the medical journal "Vaccine," it's estimated that U.S. employees miss up to 111 million workdays annually because of the flu. The result? An estimated $16.3 billion in lost earnings each year.1 The flu does not discriminate. It can impact businesses both big and small in any industry and the community at large.

For example, during the 2017-2018 flu season, schools in at least 12 states closed temporarily after students, teachers, and staff were diagnosed with the flu. At one particular school in Dallas, Texas, more than 10 percent of the student body fell ill.2

School closures, in particular, can cause a ripple effect, forcing not only students and staff to stay home – but also parents.3 With no other options, some parents must call off work to care for their sick children, causing unexpected absences in the workplace and affecting productivity.

How Flu Can Impact Your Business

The 2017-2018 flu season was considered a "high severity season," ranking as the third worst season overall since 2003-2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s current classification methodology.4

According to the CDC, the 2017-2018 season saw record-breaking levels of influenza-like illness and hospitalization rates. For the first time, all age groups were classified as "high" in the same season, which ran longer than average of 16 weeks in 2017-2018 at 20 weeks.4

a man sitting on a couch blowing his nose into a tissue

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a global outplacement and executive coaching firm, had initially estimated that the cost of lost employee productivity due to flu would be $9.4 billion during the 2017-2018 season.5 However, once the numbers began to climb, so did that estimate. The firm revised its original prediction to $21.39 billion, estimating that 25 million workers would fall ill.5

Feeling nauseous yet? As an employer, if you think there is nothing you can do to ward off flu, think again.

What You Can Do Now to Protect Your Employees

Flu season typically begins in the fall and winter months, so it's not too soon to start taking steps to prepare.

An annual flu shot remains the most effective way to prevent influenza illness, according to the CDC.4 Host a vaccination clinic to encourage your employees – as well as their families and the community – to get vaccinated.

a person circling the number ten on a calendar with the word Flu Shot written in red

Flu shot benefits include:

  • Helping to prevent you from getting sick with the flu.
  • Reducing the risk of hospitalization due to complications, especially for senior citizens and young children.
  • Potentially making flu symptoms milder if you do contract an influenza strain not included in the shot.
  • Decreasing the chances the flu will spread, which protects people who cannot get vaccinated. 

Not sure where to start? The CDC offers various tips and tools to help employers hold a vaccination clinic. Better yet, there is no need to send your staff off-site for their flu shot. MedExpress can bring flu shots to the workplace through our Employer Health Services on-site flu shot clinics.

Of course, prevention doesn't stop there. Remind employees of the following tips from the CDC in order to reduce the spread of germs during peak season:

Be proactive and not reactive as the next flu season approaches. Your employees – and your bottom line – will thank you.


References:

1 NCBI: The Annual Impact of Seasonal Influenza in the US: Measuring Disease Burden and Costs. Last updated April 20, 2007. Accessed July 23, 2018.

2 CBS NEWS: Schools in At Least 12 States Close to Fight against the Flu. Last updated January 29, 2018. Accessed July 23, 2018.

3 THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Economic Cost and Health Care Workforce Effects of School Closures in the U.S. Last updated September 30, 2009. Accessed July 23, 2018.

4 CDC: Update: Influenza Activity in the United States during the 2017–18 Season and Composition of the 2018–19 Influenza Vaccine. Last updated June 8, 2018. Accessed July 23, 2018.

5 CHALLENGER, GRAY, & CHRISTMAS, INC.: Update 2: Flu Season to Cost Employers $21B. Last updated Feb. 14, 2018. Accessed July 23, 2018.

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