Chances are either you or someone you know has come down with the flu in the past few weeks. The 2017-18 flu season (which began in October) has been particularly hard on California with elevated flu activity in all 58 counties.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reports more than 200 flu-related deaths this season for residents of our state under the age of 65. And, 175 of those deaths have occurred since December 31. Hospitalizations for influenza-like illness (ILI) have also reached alarming rates this season.
Across the country, a similar story unfolds. Outside of California, 47 other states report widespread flu activity. We’ve seen numerous media reports of schools having to be closed and disinfected as well as a nationwide increase in flu-related hospitalizations. Some call this year’s national outbreak one of the worst in at least ten years.
With so many people getting sick, we have some reminders on how you and your employees can help minimize the spread of this year’s flu virus.
Combatting the flu
It’s important to remember, we are contagious with the flu at least a day before we start feeling symptoms and remain contagious up to a week after getting sick.
For those who haven’t done so already, there’s still time to get a flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this is still the best defense against the flu. Even if you do get sick, the vaccine may help reduce the severity of your illness.
Antiviral medications are another option. The CDC says these are not a substitute for the flu vaccine, but do serve as a second line of defense if you do get sick. Antivirals are not available over the counter; they only come with a doctor’s prescription.
Other prevention steps include:
- To the extent possible, encourage your employees to stay home when they’re sick.
- Remind employees to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve of the arm when coughing or sneezing. Avoid coughing and sneezing into the hands.
- If you’re starting to feel flu-like symptoms, avoid contact with others.
- Steer clear of those who may be showing signs of illness.
- Wash your hands
CDPH alerts us to expect several more weeks of flu activity. The typical season extends at least through the third week of May. Even when the season does wrap up and the coughs and sneezes we hear around the office drop off, continuing vigilance against the flu—as indicated above—is strongly encouraged.