The "I" in Influenza

March 29, 2018

Influenza can have devastating effects on our personal and work lives. Absenteeism, loss of productivity, associated health issues and even death can all result from the flu. In this blog, Fit For Work Occupational Health Nurse and Service Coordinator Shona Urquhart talks about the importance of getting immunised to keep yourself and those around you safe this season.

Influenza season is just around the corner and it can have a huge impact on workplaces across all industries. 

It infects about one in four Kiwis every year and is a serious illness that affects the entire body. For some people it can be fatal.

Some staff may be unable to work due to illness, and as they recover, others may become unwell. Not only is staff wellbeing a concern, but the cost in lost productivity, sales and disruption can be incredibly high. About four out of five people with influenza won’t realise they have it, as they won’t display symptoms – but they can still pass it on. A small number of people are unable to have the vaccine. This makes it even more important that those who are able to get immunised do so to prevent the virus spreading.

Influenza symptoms typically include the following (often at high or severe levels):

  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • shivers
  • dry cough.

According to the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC), “employees that are vaccinated have up to 44% fewer doctors visits and up to 45% fewer lost workdays”.

The good news for workplaces is staff may not need to leave the office or worksite to be vaccinated against the flu. More and more workplaces are offering free, annual flu vaccinations to staff onsite.

You can arrange for a registered nurse to vaccinate staff at your workplace and many pharmacies also offer influenza vaccinations. Fit For Work has registered, qualified nurses that go to medium and large-sized companies to give the vaccine. We can also organise vouchers for staff to visit their GP’s practice. The influenza vaccination is a cost effective option that could potentially protect your staff and save your business a lot of money.

Other ways to look after yourself and others during the influenza season include:

  • staying at home, if you’re feeling unwell,
  • following basic hygiene practices such as regularly washing your hands with antibacterial soap,
  • avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth,
  • covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  • avoiding densely crowded places.

Workers with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease are at greater risk of influenza and symptoms can be a lot more severe. It is also crucial to remember the flu can affect anyone, no matter how fit or healthy they are. The vaccine itself does not contain any live influenza virus and cannot cause the flu. It is also safe and effective for pregnant women in any trimester. For those who are most at risk, the influenza vaccine may be free of charge. You just need to talk to your local GP, pharmacist or nurse to see if you qualify.

It can take up to two weeks to achieve full protection from the vaccine, so it is important to have your flu-shots early to give our immune systems the best possible chance of fighting off influenza this season. 

Have a look on https://www.fightflu.co.nz/ to find out more.

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