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Flu, sick workers slam workplace productivity

Flu outbreaks cost the nation's employers $10.4 billion annually in hospitalizations and outpatient visits, studies show.
by Paula Burkes Published: January 13, 2013

“And even if you do get the virus, it will be less severe,” Wall said. “You won't get as sick as you would have without it.” Flu season runs through April, Burnsed said.

Most area pharmacies have run out of flu shots, though immunizations are available at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, 921 NE 23. Cost is $25.

Delta Dental of Oklahoma offered employees and their families free on-site flu shots in October to its 91 employees. Centerpointe Resources Inc., which employs some 150 at its two home health agencies and hospice, not only paid for flu shots, but also required them as does OU Medical Center.

“The only exceptions were for employees who had allergies or those who refused to get it,” said Centerpointe President Larry Coffman. The sole worker who did refuse is required to wear a medically-appropriate mask, he said.

“OU Medical Center takes infection control seriously,” spokesman Scott Coppenbarger said. “Not only do we encourage employees who are sick to stay home until they are well, but they must also receive clearance from our employee health to return to work if they are diagnosed with certain illnesses.”

Delta Dental isn't seeing a lot of employees out with the flu, said human resources director Martha Tumelson, who suspects the vaccinations might be why. Fifty-three employees and dependents took advantage of the free shots, she said.

Like many local companies, Delta Dental also has hand sanitizers spread among common areas, Tumelson said, and in December, posted fliers encouraging frequent hand washing.

Dr. David Rothwell, primary care doctor and managing partner at Salerno Health, strongly recommends employees stay home if they have a fever over 100, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, moderate to severe cough, or dizziness when standing.

“You won't be effective at work in the first place,” Rothwell said. “Secondly, you can spread this wonderful infection to others and prolong your illness and thus your ineffectiveness,” he said. “Antibiotics don't work on a virus. Get plenty of rest, drink much water and stay home.”

by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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Oklahoma flu

By the numbers

6: Oklahomans died recently of complications from the flu

92 were hospitalized last week with the flu

345: Total hospitalizations this flu season

8: Total deaths for this flu season

$10.4 billion: Annual national cost to employers in hospitalizations, outpatient visits

SOURCES: The Oklahoma State Health Department

and the Centers for Disease Control

Tips to avoid catching the flu

• Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs.

• Avoid meetings; consider conference calls or video conferences instead.

• Encourage telecommuting.

• Wash hands frequently and keep them away from your face.

• Regularly wipe down doorknobs, phones, computers and other surfaces with disinfectant wipes.

• Replace toothbrushes every few months, including at the onset and end of a cold or flu, avoid proximity with other brushes, and sterilize brushes once or twice a week in the dishwasher or in the microwave in two inches of water for three minutes.

SOURCES: Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., Delta Dental of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City-County Health Department


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