Benefits and Compensation

Are You Training Employees to Prevent a Flu Outbreak in Your Workplace?

Flu season typically runs from October through May with February as the peak month. Let’s avoid an outbreak in our workplace this year by doing a bit of refresher training on this common yet potentially deadly malady.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) asks employees, “Do you know your flu facts?” Check your level of knowledge by taking OSHA’s seasonal flu quiz.
1. True or false? A flu vaccine cannot give you the flu.
2. True or false? The “stomach flu” and influenza are the same thing.
3. True or false? Getting a flu vaccine later than December is not too late.
4. True or false? Flu viruses change constantly, which requires that a new flu vaccine be produced each year.
5. True or false? Washing your hands is the best thing you can do to protect against the flu.
6. True or false? The flu vaccine protects against three strains of flu.
7. True or false? The flu is typically spread through coughs and/or sneezes.
8. True or false? The flu is not a serious illness.
9. True or false? The flu vaccine is available as a shot or a nasal spray.
10. True or false? You can spread the flu to others before you have symptoms.

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Answers and Explanations
Use the following information to lead a discussion with trainees that gives them the correct information about the flu.
1. True. The flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. The viruses in the vaccine are either killed (flu shot) or weakened (nasal spray vaccine), which means they cannot cause infection.
2. False. The flu is a respiratory (lung) disease, not a stomach or intestinal disease. The main symptoms of the flu are fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, can also occur but are more common in children than in adults.
3. True. The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available and that vaccination continue into December, January, and beyond. Flu activity usually peaks in February most years, but can occur as late as May.
4. True. The viruses in the vaccine change each year based on worldwide monitoring of influenza viruses.
5. False. The CDC recommends a flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu. However, preventive actions like covering your cough and washing your hands are important everyday steps that can help stop the spread of germs.
6. True. While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine protects against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season.
7. True. Flu virus is mainly spread through droplets from coughs and sneezes.
8. False. Flu is a serious contagious disease. Each year in the United States, on average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and 36,000 people die from flu.
9. True. The nasal spray flu vaccine is an option for healthy people 2 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant. “Healthy” applies to those who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to flu complications.
10. True. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass the flu on to someone else before you even get sick.

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In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll give OSHA’s recommendations for avoiding a flu outbreak in your workplace this season.