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Reduce the Risk of Exposure to Influenza in the Workplace

by: ESD Safety Coordinator Vivi Fissekidou (x5610)

According to CDC’s influenza surveillance report published on January 3, 2014, significant increases in flu activity in the United States have occurred in the last couple weeks, indicating that flu season is  here. 

Steps You Can Take to Reduce the Risk of Exposure to  Influenza in the Workplace

The best strategy to reduce the risk of becoming infected with influenza  is to avoid crowded settings and other situations that increase the risk of exposure to someone who may be infected. If it is absolutely necessary to be in a crowded setting, the time spent in a crowd should be as short as possible. Some basic hygiene and social distancing precautions that can be implemented in every workplace include the following:

  1. Sick employees should stay at home. Wait two days after the symptoms have passed before returning to work.
  2. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with hand sanitizer if there is no soap or water available. Also, avoid touching your nose, mouths, and eyes.
  3. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeves if tissues are not available. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer after you cough, sneeze or blow your nose.
  4. Avoid close contact with your coworkers and visitors (maintain a separation of at least 6 feet). Avoid shaking hands and always wash your hands after contact with others. Even if you wear gloves, you should wash your hands upon removal of the gloves in case your hand(s) became contaminated during the removal process.
  5. Have available tissues and trash receptacles and a place to wash or disinfect your hands.
  6. Keep work surfaces, telephones, computer equipment and other frequently touched surfaces and office equipment clean. Be sure that any cleaner used is safe and will not harm you or your office equipment. Use only disinfectants registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and follow all directions and safety precautions indicated on the label.
  7. Avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment.
  8. Minimize situations where groups of people are crowded together, such as in a meeting. Use e-mail, phones and text messages to communicate with each other. When meetings are necessary, avoid close contact by keeping a separation of at least 6 feet, where possible, and assure that there is proper ventilation in the meeting room.
  9. Follow a healthy lifestyle, including good nutrition, exercise, and smoking cessation. Your overall health impacts your body’s immune system and can affect your ability to fight off, or recover from, an infectious disease.