Going to work with the flu is not only dangerous for the one who is sick, but can also imperil the health of all those they come in contact with. Yet a new poll conducted by LRJ Common Strategies on behalf of South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, NY found that 37% of men and 28% of women 50-years old and up admitted to ignoring the warnings and doing just that. Although the majority of the 600 people polled said they were well aware that the illness is highly contagious and spread person-to-person, many stated that they had no choice but to “tough it out” if they wanted to get paid. Only those lucky enough to have paid sick leave could afford to recuperate at home.
Others may not even be aware that they are sick. In fact the CDC reports that approximately 33% of people infected with influenza viruses are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t show the usual signs of the being ill such as: a runny nose, sore throat, muscle ache, headache, fatigue and coughing. These symptoms usually emerge within 2-days after exposure, with most lasting up to a week or less, although coughing may linger for as long as 2-weeks. to the virus and most last less than a week. The cough, however, may last for more than two weeks. Children may also experience nausea and vomiting.
And while some people may think they just have a “heavy cold,” if complications of the flu can evolve into viral pneumonia, secondary bacterial pneumonia, sinus infections, as well as worsen health problems such as asthma or heart failure. It should also be noted that the 3 types of influenza (types A, B and C) are responsible for more than 250,000-500,000 deaths worldwide each year, mostly young children, the elderly and those with other serious health issues. As a result, the CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6-months be vaccinated annually.
In addition to coughing, sneezing (and even spitting), it is possible to spread the flu virus through hand-to-eye, hand-to-nose, or hand-to-mouth transmission, as well as direct personal contact with infected individuals such as shaking hands, hugging and kissing, etc. It is also import to keep in mind that fact that germs can persist outside of the body, and thus be transmitted by handling contaminated items including doorknobs, shopping carts, light switches, keyboards, pens and other household items, as well as by handling money. In fact, the virus is known to survive on paper money for as long as 17 days, while its lifespan on other surfaces such as plastic or metal for about 1-2 days. In comparison the germs reportedly only persist on dry tissues and napkins for about 15 minutes, and only 5 minutes on skin.
While it probably isn’t possible to wear a face mask on the job, the best way to avoid passing your germs to co-workers and others you may come in contact with (as well as getting germs from them) is to cover your mouth and nose when sneezing; refrain from touching your own nose and mouth before and after handling shared items; and to make sure you wash your hands with soap and water often.