The Centers for Disease Control made it official late last week: the flu outbreak has reached epidemic levels with 47 states reporting flu activity and 4.3 percent of outpatient visits attributed to flu symptoms. The threshold to reach epidemic level is 2.2. percent.
So this is bad news, right? For most people, yes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job absenteeism spikes during flu season, and this is the worst in a decade. According to sources speaking to The Wall Street Journal, businesses will lose billions because of this situation.
But not everyone is complaining. Ad Age reports that, unsurprisingly, companies in the cold and flu relief area are booming. Reckitt Benckiser, makers of Mucinex and Delsym, and Johnson & Johnson, which counts Children’s Motrin and Tylenol among its brands, are among the companies in this space that have seen an eight percent rise in sales.
And with efforts to avoid getting sick at a high, Lysol, Clorox, and other disinfectant brands are getting a 22 percent boost.
As we’ve previously reported, the best way to stave illness is to get vaccinated. But only 40 percent of Americans have done so for a variety of reasons, some good, some bad. The New Yorker cautions that even if you’re one of those people who refuse to get the vaccine, keep in mind that if you do get sick, you can pass it on to the most vulnerable in your family — children and the elderly. Or if you choose not to get it for yourself, perhaps you should press for members of these demographics to do so. As many as 45,000 Americans die every year from the flu. (!) Twenty people nationwide have died already, including six-year-old Tahlia Johnson, who’s funeral is pictured above. According to AP Images, it’s not certain whether she was vaccinated.
We did a little more digging to see if there’s anything more — anything at all — that companies can do to help employees. Unfortunately, the much-discussed hand washing and vaccination suggestions are really the only things we could find. Although this article suggests that companies can go an extra step toward bringing vaccinations to the office on a special day, making it available to anyone interested. With billions in losses at risk, it might be worth the trouble.