If you’re like most folks, you don’t worry about catching the flu until you’re in bed, sick.
Last year, according to the Center for Disease Control, there were 381,000 people hospitalized with the flu in the U.S. And, during the 2012-2013 flu season, employees missed 230 million workdays due to flu-related illnesses, costing employers a whopping $30.4 billion in health care and lost productivity, according to a study commissioned by Walgreens and a press release from U.S. HealthWorks.
Millions of people are stricken with the flu each year. For some it is just an inconvenience — sniffles, maybe a sore throat, but it may not prevent them from any normal activities.
For others, it means bed rest, a visit to the doctor and missed work. For even others it can mean hospitalization or, in some rare cases, death.
There are a few precautions anyone can take to lessen their chance of getting the flu.
United HealthWorks and CDC recommend:
• Get a flu vaccination. It is a good idea for larger employers to provide onsite vaccinations.
• Wash your hands frequently.
• Cover your mouth when your must sneeze or cough.
• Educate employees, students and others through posters, emails, newsletters etc. about what they can do to lower their risk of flu.
Not every employer can afford to set up flu vaccinations as is recommended by the CDC. But flu shots are readily available.
Chain stores like Publix, Walmart, Walgreens and CVS offer the vaccines at prices that can range from $18 or less to $40.
The Polk County Health Department offers the flu vaccine at the Bartow, Lakeland, Haines City and Auburndale locations. You can find more information about how to do that at www.mypolkhealth.org or call 863-519-7916.
The flu season started slow for 2013-14.
But 1,583 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported since Oct. 1, 2013. This translates to a cumulative rate of 5.8 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States.
What health professionals are seeing, however, is the number of “severe” cases of flu is higher than normal.
They also warned that pregnant women have been more susceptible than usual to the flu this year.
It is difficult to get a handle on the number of cases of flu in the area because flu is not a reportable disease.
There is no way to 100 percent protect yourself from the flu. A vaccination and common sense precautions are a good way to lower your risk and prevent missing work or activities you are looking forward to.