Caution: We are entering flu season! Are you at risk of contracting this virus? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, if you work in certain jobs, you are at a higher risk for contracting the seasonal flu virus. For example, those who work in the healthcare industry, such as outpatient or inpatient facilities, experience the greatest exposure to the virus. If you work in housekeeping or food service industries that involve interaction with individuals or contaminated environments, then you have an increased risk of exposure. Those working in correctional institutions, health services organizations, industrial workplaces, and schools are also more likely to contract the flu. What can you do to protect yourself from the flu this season?
When and How the Flu is Spread
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) notes that while the flu virus is most viral from December to February, it can begin its rampage in October and last through May. Therefore, you should always keep prevention measures in mind. If you know someone with the flu virus, avoid them as much as possible. This virus spreads very easily on contact and through the air. In a study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as reported by the CDC:
- The flu virus can become airborne through an aerosol sprayed while talking, breathing, sneezing, and coughing.
- The size of the airborne particles, which contain 42 to 53% of the flu virus RNA, allow them to remain airborne for extended periods of time.
Tips for Seasonal Flu Prevention
The first thing you should do, according to the CDC, is to get an annual flu vaccination (recommended for everyone 6 months and older). This vaccination will protect you from the majority of flu viruses that spread. WebMD promotes several other prevention techniques:
- If you touch a surface that is commonly touched by others (such as door handles, telephones, or debit/credit card keypads), wash your hands as soon as possible with warm water and antibacterial soap. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if washing is not available.
- Avoid shaking hands during flu season. Go for fist bumps or a friendly wave. If handshakes are necessary, such as during corporate meetings, have a bottle of hand sanitizer within reach.
- Use disinfectant wipes to wipe down all surfaces that you are about to touch while at work (such as doorknobs and break room tables).
- Do not rub your eyes, pick your nose or bite your fingernails without washing or sanitizing your hands first.
Symptoms of the Seasonal Flu
The flu, unlike a cold, will hit you out of the blue, knocking you out of commission for the duration. A fever will strike along with fatigue and aching joints. You may experience red and aching eyes, headache, runny nose, and coughing. If you feel that the flu is about to strike, then please do everyone a favor: Do not go to work—come back after 24 hours of feeling better.