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Fighting Flu Season

Flu can be an illness of companies, not just individuals

14Oct

Flu season is here.

It might not be in full swing yet, but the bug has already started to rear its head in several parts of the U.S, with St.Louis County among those already readying itself by offering free flu vaccinations to anyone between the ages of two and 18

While mostly treatable, instances where otherwise healthy people die from the flu are not unheard of. In October 2015, a 26 year-old care worker died just days after getting sick, despite having the flu shot. According to Health Impact News, this year’s shot is ‘mostly ineffective against current influenza strains.’ This is, however, unproven.

The most common side effect of the shot is Guillain-Barré Syndrome (CBS). The condition - which sees the body’s immune system attack the nervous system - is serious, with 20% of sufferers never making a full recovery. Statistics from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDP) show that one or two people attributed CBS to their flu shot.

Despite having limitations, the chances of death, or even serious illness, remain low. And instead of being harmful, the shot normally does its job, and prevents the flu. Over the years, it’s been an important lifeline for businesses, abating days lost due to illness, and consequently increasing, or at least maintaining productivity.

The season does, however, take its toll. From now to Christmas, five to twenty percent of the U.S population will contract the flu. For those who don’t vaccinate themselves, this equates to more days off ill and a decrease in output. Due to pressure from employers, many workers feel it necessary to come in when they are ill - which normally spreads the disease further.

Although doctors stand by the flu shot year-after-year, the public continues to stutter over its price. At $30, some decide that they’ll ride their luck. This has led many to wonder why more companies don’t offer the shot as part of their corporate wellness strategy. For most companies, the money laid out in flu shots would probably be less than revenue lost through sickness, and also promote a more caring workforce culture.

Preventing illness, is, of course, central to any corporate wellness program. The flu can often linger for weeks, and with worker morale lowered, unhealthy lifestyle choices become more likely. Gym visits are often put on hold, and comfort eating can also occur. By having worksite vaccinations, workers can not only get vaccinated, but also talk to healthcare professionals about other concerns they may have. Armed with this new information, they can make changes, and even attempt to improve their immune system’s capacity to fight off illnesses.

The flu isn’t picky about who it infects. Everybody has probably been affected by it once in their life, making it a wellness initiative most would be keen to take up. This makes it the ideal platform for other ideas, and gets people involved who would otherwise be reluctant to mix health and work. If the flu jab proved successful, other initiatives might also be viewed with more optimism. Be clear that there will be no charge at any point for treatment, and design care plans around the worker - make it as convenient as possible, so that they don’t fear that it will clash with their schedules.

America’s youth are becoming more and more health conscious. This is not only reflected in the foods they eat, but also in their approach to fitness. Many companies take advantage of this by including gym memberships in job offers. As an extension of that, the flu shot promotes a healthier lifestyle, and therefore would probably be welcomed as part of a corporate wellness strategy.

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