The timing of flu season is unpredictable and varies by year, but it’s been known to start as early as October, with a peak in February, and could last into May.
As I started to work on our blog topic this week, it took me some time as I've been home with the flu. Which dawned on me.... how many others are in the same boat this year? With an unprecedented number of people falling victim to this vicious flu season, I thought it was important to share some facts around it, as well as some tips around life insurance because... well, I am a marketer at the end of the day, even if I have the flu.
No matter the month, the flu is coming!
If a major influenza outbreak hits your community, you may face highly elevated employee absenteeism rates, which could lead to business interruption and lost production. Being prepared for a possible severe outbreak in your community will help ensure that your business runs as smoothly as possible throughout the flu season.
Have you ever considered the impact that the flu season has on your business?
Are you prepared?
Key facts about the flu
- Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness.
- Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death
- Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications
- Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby
- Less often, a person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose
- You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you’re sick, as well as while you are sick
- Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop, and up to five to seven days after becoming sick; some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
- Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes
- Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to the flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick
- The highest risk groups include people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), between five and 20% of the U.S. population are infected with the flu each year, tens of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands die from flu-related illnesses.
The flu season costs an estimated $10.4 billion a year in direct medical expenses and an additional $16.3 billion in lost earnings annually. Employers can play an important role in preventing the flu, helping to protect employees’ health, and reducing losses in productivity and revenue.
It’s been estimated that each year in the United States, the flu results in:
- 4 million outpatient visits
- Approximately 200,000 hospitalizations
- More than $87 billion in total economic burden
- Between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREPARE FOR THE FLU SEASON?
Not only is it important for you to prepare your business for the flu season, but you may want to prepare your own family as well.
- Get vaccinated: Vaccination is the single best way to prevent the flu, as prevention is always better than cure. On average, only 46% of the U.S. population gets the flu vaccination. To prepare for flu season, arrange for annual vaccination appointments for you and your family members. Flu viruses can change from season to season and immunity declines over time so it’s important to get vaccinated each year.
The flu can affect any age, and the flu vaccination protects you and the people around you who may be more vulnerable to serious flu illnesses. For example, children younger than six months old are unable to get the flu vaccine, which is why it’s important for their caregivers to get it.
The CDC suggests that people get vaccinated against the flu as soon as the vaccine becomes available, and if possible, by October. However, as long as the flu is circulating it's never too late to get vaccinated.
- Prepare your home: It is important to anticipate the supplies and medications that you may need during a pandemic, so that they’re readily available when needed. Monitor your prescription drugs so that you always have a continuous supply in your home, and have applicable nonprescription drugs and health supplies on hand, such as pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, vitamins, etc.
- Communicate: Make plans with family and loved ones about the type of care someone will need if sick with the flu, so everyone is prepared to care for each other.
- Wash your hands: Make it routine for you to wash your hands regularly, especially before you eat and after you’ve been near someone who has been coughing or sneezing. Even if you’re exposed to the flu, washing your hands will reduce the chance of flu germs spreading to your body.
- Teach your kids to wash their hands: It’s highly likely that your children will come into contact with flu germs while at school or daycare. To minimize the chance of flu germs spreading to their bodies, and them carrying germs home from school, remind your children to use warm, soapy water to wash their hands regularly and frequently, including before meals. Stash a bottle of hand sanitizer in their backpacks as an additional defense.
- Take your symptoms seriously: If you experience fever, sore throat, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, muscle aches, fatigue, exhaustion, vomiting, diarrhea and/or headache, see your doctor. Antiviral drugs to treat your illness work best when started within two days of experiencing symptoms.
- Don’t bite your nails: If you have a habit of biting your nails, you’re giving flu germs a direct route to enter your system through your mouth and to start making you sick. Make it a point to kick the habit.
- Keep your work area clean: Regularly disinfect your work area, especially if you eat lunch at your desk. Your desk can harbor flu germs, which are easily spread through everyday activities such as shuffling papers or talking on your office phone ‒ a likely place for exposure to flu germs. To help you keep track of your desk-cleaning schedule, try putting reminders in your work calendar.
- Make your health a priority: Boost your immune system with healthy habits. Exercise regularly. Eat a well-balanced diet. Get enough sleep. Manage stress. Stop smoking. If your immune system is healthy, you reduce your chances of catching the flu.
Follow these recommendations and share them with your family and friends, and even with your children’s teachers, to help reduce the likelihood of exposure to flu germs.
Preparing for an outbreak
Influenza is spread easily through person-to-person contact, so the best way to prevent the spread of it in your workplace is for sick employees to stay home until their symptoms are gone. Here at Avenege Digital, we have a strict policy that if you come down with an illness, you work remotely until your symptoms are gone. I can't tell you how many places I've worked where they expect their sick employees to come to work, which turns into a domino effect. This is where lost productivity comes from... a lack of understanding from business owners.
It’s essential to review policies to ensure enough flexibility to meet the challenges that each flu season may present.
Sick leave policies should be accommodating, non-punitive, and well-communicated to encourage ill employees to stay home and allow employees to care for sick family members.
As a company that does this, we can't recommend enough that agency owners consider implementing plans for such employees to work remotely from home if possible. By accommodating ill employees or employees with sick family members, you can keep business interruption to a minimum while also avoiding the spread of influenza throughout your workplace.
It’s important that all employees completely understand the sick leave policies and any new provisions in place, so if the flu hits, they’re informed and prepared. In addition, you should create contingency plans for essential operations and job duties so your operations run smoothly, even in the event of absences.
Containing a local outbreak
There's a strong likelihood that your workplace will experience seasonal flu occurrences at some point during the fall or winter season. Encourage all sick employees to stay home until their symptoms subside.
Try to be flexible with ill employees, or employees who must stay home to care for their family members. If employees feel pressured to work through their illness, it will likely spread around your workplace, and you may face even more employee absence.
If your community is experiencing increased flu occurrences, you may consider canceling nonessential face-to-face meetings and travel to avoid close contact between employees. Take advantage of telecommuting, email and other remote conferencing options.
The Flu and Life Insurance
So now that we've covered everything under the sun about influenza in the workplace, I do want to share some tips with you regarding Life insurance and the flu. One thing we have noticed over the years is that the search for life insurance increases during flu season.
When people are focused on their health.... life and health insurance is on the mind! Many agencies focus on a fast start program from January until April where they focus on an increase for life insurance policies in force.
This is the time to strike, as many people are home (as they should be while they recover) and search for life and health insurances if they don't already have it.
The key to reaching these people is email communication. Many people home recovering from an illness, including the flu, are so stuffy that the last thing they want to do is talk on the phone.... but they do answer emails!
By modifying your follow up strategy if you know a consumer is ill, will help keep the process moving even though they may not be.
From all of us at Avenge Digital, we hope you are staying healthy this flu season! If not, follow some of our steps above to get better in no time and back on track to growing a happy, successful, and healthy agency!