Diseases 101: Influenza (The Flu Virus)

Influenza, or the flu as it is commonly referred to, is a virus which makes its annual round as we transition from fall into winter and infects approximately 5-20% of the US population each year. The 2016-2017 season is in its early stages, which makes now a great time to prepare in order to stay healthy this season.

What Is the Flu?

The flu is a viral respiratory infection that affects the nose, throat, passageways, and lungs. Though the flu shares many of the same indicators as a cold, they are not the same. Generally, flu symptoms are more intense, the sickness lasts longer, and can lead to other complications. The following symptoms are commonly experienced with the flu:

  • Body aches
  • Fever or chills (fevers do not occur in everyone)
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea sometimes occur, but this is more common in children.

On average, the flu lasts for one to two weeks. Most healthy individuals recover after about seven days; however, it can last twice as long, include a cough in some instances, and in severe cases, can require hospitalization and even cause death. About 200,000 Americans are hospitalized with the flu virus and anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 die from it each year.

Transmission of the Flu Virus

People are most likely to catch the flu from the droplets that are expelled during a cough or sneeze from an infected person nearby. According to the World Health Organization, “seasonal influenza spreads easily and can sweep through schools, nursing homes, businesses or towns.” The flu can also be transmitted through touch, as it can live on a hard surface for up to eight hours.

People can pass the virus on to others the day before their symptoms present and remain contagious five to seven days after becoming ill. Most children can transmit the flu for seven days or more after showing signs of it.

Flu Virus Prevention

Due to how easy the flu is to spread, preventative measures are necessary for everyone, even the healthiest of people, who want to avoid becoming sick.

Combined with good hand hygiene, the best prevention available is the flu vaccine. It decreases the likelihood of becoming ill by 50-60% for most individuals and can lessen the severity of this illness for those who do become sick. Approximately 60% of adults 18 years and older, and 46% of children ranging from 6 months to 17 years old received the vaccine during the 2014-2015 season. October is the ideal time to get vaccinated; however, it is offered throughout the entire season. Once it is administered, the shot takes two weeks to become effective and provide protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone older than six months receive the flu shot. Other forms of prevention include the following:

  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Wash your hands often. Soap and water are the best option.
  • Hand sanitizer is an effective alternative.
  • Regularly sanitize common surfaces and objects

The Flu Virus and Your Business

Employers should be ready with preventative measures in order to keep their staff healthy and minimize the number of workers who become ill. Each year, 10.4-16.3 billion dollars are lost due to sick days caused by the flu. In 2013-2014, 60% of the people who were hospitalized for the flu were adults between the ages of 18-64. Offering the right provisions to stay healthy is the best way to lower the number of flu cases.

  • Encourage all employees to get vaccinated. Consider hosting an in-office flu shot clinic. Making the vaccine inexpensive or free, and easily accessible will increase the chances of more staff members receiving it.
  • Hand washing is one of the most effective ways to avoid any sickness. Minimizing cross-contamination in your business’s restrooms will help everyone to achieve cleaner hands. When used together, touch-free products like automatic flush systems, soap dispensers, faucets, hand dryers and paper towel dispensers eliminate cross-contamination. Hand sanitizer is an effective alternative to soap and water, and keeping hand sanitizer dispensers available will enable workers to clean their hands often and easily.
  • Encourage your employees to stay home if they feel sick and not to return until 24 hours of being fever-free without medication.

With holidays fast approaching, no one wants to become sick. You can reduce the chances of your employees and customers catching the flu by taking these precautions and help them enjoy the time with family and friends.

Citron Hygiene have been keeping businesses clean and hygenic for over 40 years. Speak to our experts today and find out how we can help minimise the spread of viruses and illness in your business.

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