Influenza can spread in the workplace or school setting, so it is important for employees, employers, administrators, students, parents, and staff alike to be prepared for the flu season and prevent illness.
Some facts about influenza in the workplace:
- Every year in the United States, influenza costs an estimated $10.4 billion in direct medical costs and $16.3 billion in lost earnings due to illness and loss of life.Factoring in work absences and other variables, the total estimated economic burden is $87.1 billion annually. (Molinari NA, et al., 2007)
- Among adults 18-64 years of age, influenza causes the following each year (Nichol KL, 2001):
- 200 million days of diminished productivity
- 100 million days of bed disability
- 75 million days of work absences
- 22 million visits to healthcare providers
Tips for employees about influenza prevention and preparing for the flu season:
- Find out about your employer’s plans if an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs and whether flu vaccinations are offered on-site or at other convenient locations.
- Routinely clean frequently touched objects and surfaces, including doorknobs, keyboards, and phones, to help remove germs.
- Make sure your workplace has an adequate supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes.
- Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Train others on how to do your job so they can cover for you in case you or a family member gets sick and you have to stay home.
- If you begin to feel sick while at work, go home as soon as possible and stay home until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without using a fever-reducing medication.
Resources for businesses
- Business planning: seasonal flu and pandemic flu (HHS)
- “Give productivity a shot in the arm: How influenza immunization can enhance your bottom line” (Partnership for Prevention)
- Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Influenza in Non-Healthcare Group Settings (Aug 2015 (VDH)
- “Help Protect Your Co-Workers” (sign) (VDH)
- Influenza print materials for businesses (CDC)
- Nonpharmaceutical interventions: Workplaces (CDC)
- Seasonal flu information for businesses and employers (CDC) – contains information on promoting seasonal flu vaccination and recommended strategies for preventing the flu in the workplace
Schools and Childcare Settings
Recommendations to reduce the spread of flu in schools and childcare settings:
- Encourage children/students, parents, and staff to get a yearly flu vaccine.
- Encourage children/students, parents, and staff to take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of used tissues immediately in the trash.
- Keep hands clean. Hands should be washed with soap and water when visibly dirty, contaminated, or soiled (such as after coughing or sneezing), after using the restroom, and before eating or preparing food. Alcohol-based hand rubs may be used for situations other than the ones mentioned above or if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching the nose, mouth, and eyes. Germs spread that way.
- Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are touched often such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, and faucets, especially when someone is ill.
- Children/students and staff should stay home when sick for at least 24 hours after they are fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Educate children/students, parents, and staff on what to do if someone gets sick (see list of resources below).
- Establish relationships with state and local health officials for ongoing communication.
- Contact information for local health departments can be found here.
Resources for schools and childcare providers
- Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Influenza in Non-Healthcare Group Settings (Aug 2015) (VDH)
- Nonpharmaceutical interventions: Child care and K-12 schools (CDC)
- Seasonal flu information for schools & childcare providers (CDC) – includes school-located vaccination materials, guidance for K-12 administrators, cleaning and disinfecting tips, and educational posters
- Seasonal flu print materials: parents and children (CDC)
- School planning: seasonal flu and pandemic flu (HHS)
For some flu seasons, such as in 2009-2010 during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, special flu guidance or recommendations may be published for specific groups or populations (such as emergency medical services or public safety employees).
As additional information or resources are developed for other populations or settings, this page will be updated.
- Molinari NA, Ortega-Sanchez IR, Messonnier ML, et al. The annual impact of seasonal influenza in the US: Measuring disease burden and costs. Vaccine. 2007;25(27):5086-5096.
- Nichol KL. Cost-benefit analysis of a strategy to vaccinate healthy working adults against influenza. Arch Intern Med. 2001;161:749-759.