It has been predicted that the 2017-2018 influenza season may be severe. It is starting early – having shown up in Southern California earlier than usual. It causes or is a part of the cause of death in thousands of people in the US every year – mostly small children/ babies and the elderly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published guidance for preventing seasonal influenza in the workplace.
- Promote influenza vaccine: “The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year.” There are several types of vaccine that can be used depending on your particular health situation. It is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Otherwise there are few people for whom the vaccine is not appropriate. Vaccination during preganancy can help protect your newborn who is particularly at risk if the baby catches influenza.
- Unfortunately, as the vaccines are prepared early in the year in anticipation of the major predicted strains of influenza in the fall, this year the vaccine was off the target from the prevalent strain causing influenza this year. However, protection against the 2 or 3 other strains involved in causing influenza remains. It is still highly recommended. I got mine – even during the fires!
- The influenza vaccine is given at a time of the year when common colds show up in the population (kids back in school) – so many people have said they thought that the vaccination gave them the illness. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN.
- We have become familiar with cover your cough (either with your elbow or a tissue) and dispose of the tissue properly – stand away – it doesn’t take much distance to reduce exposure.
- Wash your hands – transmission from hands can be prevented by washing. I do frequently during the day and when I arrive home from work. Don’t be nuts about it but have common sense.
- Know the signs and symptoms of influenza – influenza is NOT the common cold (people do come to work with colds – kinda unavoidable and a nuisance). I consider influenza with the following symptoms that can often develop quickly:
- Fever – almost always (or chills)
- Cough – influenza is a respiratory illness
- Body aches – yeah, this is part of the misery – ache all over
- Headache – another typical part of the misery.
So you can see how influenza is different from the run of the mill cold or stomach ailment. You can have sniffles, sore throat, stomach complaints, fatigue too, but I pay attention to the top four.
- If you think you have influenza – GO HOME – STAY HOME– WATCH NETFLIX! (although you may want only to sleep) – Check in with your health care provider if you are at high risk or take a turn for the worse. Don’t be a part of the spread of influenza in the workplace.
I practice these measures for five reasons
- I don’t want to get sick – influenza – not the common cold – is miserable
- I don’t want to use my valuable PTO time being ill! (hmm vacation or home feeling like I’ve been run over)
- I don’t want to bring it home to my family (what a way to spoil the holidays and new year – and they will get mad at you)
- I don’t want to bring it to work – “IT WAS YOU!”
- AND I’m a doctor – walk the walk – I’m a believer
If you have influenza – stay home, rest, take fluids, medications like ibuprofen to feel better (don’t give aspirin to kids or adolescents). If you worsen seek medical advice or help. Don’t return to work until your fever is gone for 24 hours – you’ll know, the relief is remarkable.
Vaccine, cover, wash, recognize, stay home.