Flu Season Has Struck Early and Hard - News - @ JEMS.com


Flu Season Has Struck Early and Hard

Flu was widespread in 47 states last week, up from 41 the week before

 

 
 
 

MATTHEW PERRONE, AP Health Writer | | Friday, January 11, 2013


WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly half the 70 employees at a Ford dealership in Clarksville, Ind., have been out sick at some point in the past month. It didn't have to be that way, the boss says.

"If people had stayed home in the first place, a lot of times that spread wouldn't have happened," says Marty Book, a vice president at Carriage Ford. "But people really want to get out and do their jobs, and sometimes that's a detriment."

The flu season that has struck early and hard across the U.S. is putting businesses and employees alike in a bind. In this shaky economy, many Americans are reluctant to call in sick, something that can backfire for their employers.

Flu was widespread in 47 states last week, up from 41 the week before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. The only states without widespread flu were California, Mississippi and Hawaii. And the main strain of the virus circulating tends to make people sicker than usual.

Blake Fleetwood, president of Cook Travel in New York, says his agency is operating with less than 40 percent of its staff of 35 because of the flu and other ailments.

"The people here are working longer hours and it puts a lot of strain on everyone," Fleetwood says. "You don't know whether to ask people with the flu to come in or not." He says the flu is also taking its toll on business as customers cancel their travel plans: "People are getting the flu and they're reduced to a shriveling little mess and don't feel like going anywhere."

Many workers go to the office even when they're sick because they are worried about losing their jobs, says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an employer consulting firm. Other employees report for work out of financial necessity, since roughly 40 percent of U.S. workers don't get paid if they are out sick. Some simply have a strong work ethic and feel obligated to show up.

Flu season typically costs employers $10.4 billion for hospitalization and doctor's office visits, according to the CDC. That does not include the costs of lost productivity from absences.

At Carriage Ford, Book says the company plans to make flu shots mandatory for all employees.

Linda Doyle, CEO of the Northcrest Community retirement home in Ames, Iowa, says the company took that step this year for its 120 employees, providing the shots at no cost. It is also supplying face masks for all staff.

And no one is expected to come into work if sick, she says.

So far, the company hasn't seen an outbreak of flu cases.

"You keep your fingers crossed and hope it continues this way," Doyle says. "You see the news and it's frightening. We just want to make sure that we're doing everything possible to keep everyone healthy. Cleanliness is really the key to it. Washing your hands. Wash, wash, wash."

Among other steps employers can take to reduce the spread of the flu on the job: holding meetings via conference calls, staggering shifts so that fewer people are on the job at the same time, and avoiding handshaking.

Newspaper editor Rob Blackwell says he had taken only two sick days in the last two years before coming down with the flu and then pneumonia in the past two weeks. He missed several days the first week of January and has been working from home the past week.

"I kept trying to push myself to get back to work because, generally speaking, when I'm sick I just push through it," says Blackwell, the Washington bureau chief for the daily trade paper American Banker.

Connecticut is the only state that requires some businesses to pay employees when they are out sick. Cities such as San Francisco and Washington have similar laws.

Challenger and others say attitudes are changing, and many companies are rethinking their sick policies to avoid officewide outbreaks of the flu and other infectious diseases.

"I think companies are waking up to the fact right now that you might get a little bit of gain from a person coming into work sick, but especially when you have an epidemic, if 10 or 20 people then get sick, in fact you've lost productivity," Challenger says.

___

Associated Press writers Mike Stobbe in Atlanta, Eileen A.J. Connelly in New York, Paul Wiseman in Washington, Barbara Rodriguez in Des Moines, Iowa, and Jim Salter in St. Louis contributed to this report.



Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, flu

 
What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Buyer's Guide Featured Companies

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Improving Survival from Cardiac Arrest Using ACD-CPR + ITD

Using active compression-decompression CPR with an ITD has been shown to improve 1-year survival from cardiac arrest by 33%.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Philadelphia Fire Department Apologizes for Medic’s Jab at Police

Union head calls photos a slap in the face of officers.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

D.C. Fire and EMS Crews Blame New Technology for Patient’s Death

Delayed response blamed on recurring dispatch problems.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Suspect Steals, Crashes Maryland Ambulance

One killed, others injured in Prince George’s County crash.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Truck Strikes Pedestrians in Scotland

Six killed in downtown Glasgow.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Tennessee Trench Rescue

Worker pulled from Roane County worksite.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Time’s Ebola Firefighters

Doctors, nurses and others saluted for fighting virus.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >