Seasonal influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that affects approximately 5-20% of U.S. residents each year.
But who’s the most likely to get the flu?
According to a recent study of 8,700 Washington State workers conducted by the scientific journal PLOS ONE, janitors are the most likely to exhibit flu-like symptoms.
Though it might seem like teachers, healthcare workers and other professionals that work one-on-one with flu-stricken adults and children would be more prone to the bug – behind the scenes workers are actually more susceptible.
According to co-author Naomi Anderson – an epidemiologist with the State Department of Labor and Industries – the main “reason janitors are more prone to the flu is that they clean areas and objects that often harbor bacteria.”
“They’re cleaning up after us, disinfecting surfaces and touching things that are handled a lot like door knobs and handling materials and other things that could be contaminated,” Anderson went on to say.
So what’s the take away from this?
Perhaps custodial workers aren’t receiving the essential equipment and training necessary to protect them from contracting the flu. More research is certainly needed establish a cause and to find an appropriate solution.
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In an average year, the flu contributes to an estimated 70 million missed days of work – which calculates into roughly $10 billion in lost office productivity.
Flu season is just about to arrive, which means a multitude of employee sick days are just around the corner – or are they?
According to a new flu season survey conducted by Staples, almost 80 percent of office workers show up for work, even when they know they’re sick. This number is up 20 percent over the past year. And for those who elect to stay home, nearly two-thirds return to the office when they’re still contagious.
When asked about their office habits, the survey also demonstrated that office workers continue to make preventable errors that fuel the spread of office germs:
- 51 percent of employees surveyed clean their desk once per week or less. Germs can live on surfaces for up three days – especially on keyboards (traditionally one of the dirtiest workspace areas).
- 25 percent of those surveyed believed that door handles were the least sanitary place in the office, when it’s actually the break room sink, followed by the office microwave.
- 65 percent of survey participants believed that individuals sick with the flu are contagious for a total of 1-3 days, when in actuality the flu virus is contagious at least a day prior to symptoms and for an additional 5-7 days after becoming sick.
So why are employees going to work when they’re still sick? They’re concerned about completing unfinished work.
Image Credit: Flickr