Flu outbreak is costing companies billions
It's the worst flu season in years. Workers concerned about job security are coming to the office sick and making it worse.
This new flu season is nothing to sneeze at.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scrambling to keep up with the ever-rising numbers of people being hospitalized across the country with influenza.
In Boston, according to USA Today, hundreds of confirmed flu cases -- 10 times the total number of last year’s entire flu season -- have prompted city officials to declare a health emergency.
The CDC estimates that, on average, the flu costs employers and businesses approximately $10.4 billion dollars in direct costs for adult hospitalization and outpatient visits. But this year it is expected to take a larger toll on health – and the economy.
The outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas says that, along with increased health care costs and widespread absenteeism, sick workers -– worried about keeping their jobs -– are still coming to the office.
In the current, shaky economic environment, "workers are reluctant to call in sick or even use vacation days," CEO John Challenger said in a press statement. "Of course, this has significant negative consequences for the workplace, where the sick worker is not only performing at a reduced capacity, but also likely to infect others.”
Challenger has some suggestions for companies trying to keep their operations humming despite the flu outbreak:
Designate a "flu czar." One employee can help operations by monitoring the number of people out sick, coordinating requests for leave and informing employees of any company measures to combat the flu outbreak.
Enforce in-office hygiene. Challenger says employees who must go to the office should be "encouraged, if not compelled" to regularly wash their hands and use anti-bacterial wipes on their work areas. He also suggests companies maintain a 3-foot space between workers during a flu outbreak.
Allow sick employees to stay home, and have an effective leave policy. "You want to encourage workers to stay home when they are sick so they do not spread illness to co-workers," said Challenger. "You also want them to stay home to care for sick children so they are not forced to go to school and spread the virus to other kids."
Increase the number of shifts. More shifts will reduce the number of people working in an office at any given time, and reduce potential exposure to the flu.
Allow employees to telecommute and limit in-person meetings. Don’t gather large groups of employees in a confined space if it isn’t necessary. Also consider meeting via conference calls.
Of course, there are some companies in the healthcare field that may find this year’s severe influenza outbreak presents an opportunity due to increased demand for supplies.
"We are coming to the point where we are running out of testing supplies," Dr. Ed Ward, at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, told Reuters. Rush has already seen nearly the twice of number of flu patients it saw all of last year.
Companies that could benefit from sufferers' ills include pharmaceutical firms like Novartis (NVS), Sanofi (SNY), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Merck (MRK) that produce flu vaccines, and the makers of pain relief and cough medicines, like Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Pfizer (PFE).
More from MSN
Regardless of the monetary value of the outbreak, this flu is nothing to fool around with. Eight have died in seven days in Oklahoma and the meat of the season hasn't hit yet.
The flu, right here in our own country, is costing billions, eh? Then why are we continuing to promise the Afghani President billions and billions more? Even after we "pull out" in 2014?
Can we please spend our money on our own citizens for a change? Take the cost of the flu out of Karzai's pocket...
Why would you use anti-bacterial wipes against the flu? The flu is a virus...
the post office dont believe in their workers staying home !!!! they want us to come to work sick , touching all the mail and spreading the germs to the places and families we deliver to ... so every one spray your mail down lysol!!!!
Is that $1.4 billion in addition to health insurance (tax deductible) and sick leave (which is meant to be use, no?), or just a tally of the normal costs of doing business?
But the headline is more catchy this way!
I was fortunate to work for a large company a few years back that had realized it cost less $$ to take the time to line us up and give FREE flu shots than it did to have people answer the phone and relay messages and such for employees calling in sick. Healthy people at desks produce billable hours, Employees out sick sap overhead $$.
Unfortunately, for employees without a flu shot benefit, allergic to a vaccine component, or if the shot just didn't work, it's also that same corporate mentality that makes sick employees feel they must show up when they shouldn't be at work.
It's not too late to get a shot if you didn't get one this season, but it can take up to a couple weeks to build full immunity, so don't delay that decision too long.
This flu season looks like it will be a bad one this time. At least those that did get vaccinated will reduce the overall illness and death tolls from what they would be without it.
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market ended the Wednesday session on a mixed note. The tech-heavy Nasdaq displayed relative strength, climbing 0.4%, while the S&P 500 added 0.2% with five sectors settling in the green. For its part, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (-0.2%) spent the entire session below its flat line.
Equities started the midweek affair on a rather unassuming note in the absence of market-moving news or economic releases. With those pieces missing from the equation, ... More
More Market News
4 analysts downgrade the stock the day after a disappointing quarterly report.
MUST-SEE ON MSN
- Video: Easy DIY smoked meats at home
A charcuterie master shares his process for cold-smoking meat at home.
- Jetpacks about to go mainstream
- Weird things covered by home insurance
- Bing: 70 percent of adults report 'digital eye strain'