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Flu (Seasonal Influenza)

Why Employers Care

Seasonal influenza is commonly referred to as the flu. The flu is not just another cold; it is a dangerous viral illness affecting up to 20% of the U.S. population annually.1 Flu costs businesses approximately $10.4 billion in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits for adults each year.2 The flu is responsible for 200 million days of diminished productivity, 100 million days of bed disability and 75 million days of work absence.3 Each episode of illness translates into five to six days of symptoms and between a half day and five days of work missed.4-9 This not only disrupts the lives of the affected persons, it also impedes how well employers can function without the affected employees.

Receiving an annual flu vaccine is especially important for hospital workers. Over 70% of health care workers have worked despite having a flu-like illness, and worked an average of 2.5 days while ill, even though the virus can be spread to others a day before symptoms appear.10 Each death from hospital-acquired flu costs an additional $7,500 per case.11 If all health care workers in hospital facilities were vaccinated, then approximately 60% of patient influenza infections could be prevented.12

What Can Employers Do?

Employers should encourage all employees to get a flu shot. Where possible, they should provide on-site vaccination opportunities for employees and their dependents. In one study, implementing on-site flu shot programs was relatively inexpensive — less than $35 per vaccinated employee — and was cost saving across diverse occupational groups.13 Employers should also ensure that all Centers of Excellence and preferred provider hospitals have a mandatory annual flu vaccination policy in place (with exceptions allowed for documented medical or religious reason). Ultimately, a vaccinated workforce is a healthier, more productive and less costly one.

Relevant Tools and Resources Include:

References (show references)

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seasonal Influenza. Updated July 2011. Accessed February 9, 2012.

2 Molinari NA, Ortega-Sanchez IR, Messonnier ML, et al. The annual impact of seasonal influenza in the US: measuring disease burden and costs. Vaccine. 2007; 25(27):5086-96.

3 Benson V, Marano M. Current estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, 1995. Vital Health and Health Statistics (National Center for Health Statistics; Hyattsville, MD). 1998(199).

4 Bridges CB, Thompson WW, Meltzer MI, et al. Effectiveness and cost-benefit of influenza vaccination of healthy working adults: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA. Oct 4 2000;284(13):1655-1663.

5 Kavet J.A perspective on the significance of pandemic influenza. Am J Public Health. 1977;67(11):1063-1070.

6 Nichol KL, Lind A, Margolis KL, et al. The effectiveness of vaccination against influenza in healthy, working adults. N Engl J Med. Oct 5 1995;333(14):889-893.

7 Kumpulainen V, Makela M. Influenza vaccination among healthy employees: a cost-benefit analysis. Scand J Infect Dis. 1997;29(2):181-185.

8 Keech M, Scott AJ, Ryan PJ. The impact of influenza and influenza-like illness on productivity and healthcare resource utilization in a working population. Occup Med (Lond). Feb 1998;48(2):85-90.

9 Fitzner KA, Shortridge KF, McGhee SM, et al. Cost-effectiveness study on influenza prevention in Hong Kong. Health Policy. Jun 2001;56(3):215-234.

10 Talbot, T et al. Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) Position Paper."Influenza Vaccination of Healthcare Workers and Vaccine Allocation for Healthcare workers during vaccine shortages." Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology 26 (2005): 882-890.

11 Salgado, C. et al "Influenza in the acute hospital setting." Lancet Infectious Diseases 2 (2002): 145-155. p. 147.

12 Sullivan SJ, Jacobson R, Poland GA. Mandating influenza vaccination for healthcare workers. Expert Rev Vaccines. 2009;8:1469-1474.

13Lee B et al. Economics of employer-sponsored workplace vaccination to prevent pandemic and seasonal influenza. Vaccine, Volume 28, Issue 37, 23 August 2010, Pages 5952â??5959. Accessed September 13, 2012.

Page last updated: February 20, 2013

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