During an influenza pandemic and during seasonal epidemics, more persons have symptomatic illness without seeking medical care than seek treatment at doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals. Workplace absenteeism during the high-severity 2017 to 2018 influenza season increased.
The researchers finding absenteeism sharply increased in November and peaked in January; at its peak, the absenteeism level was significantly higher than the average during the previous five seasons. Consequently, surveillance based on mortality, health care encounters, and laboratory data does not reflect the full extent of influenza morbidity.
Workplace absenteeism in flu season
Male workers, workers aged 45 to 64 years, and workers living in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regions 6 and 9 were especially affecting; as were those working in management, business, and financial; installation, maintenance, and repair; and production and related occupations.
The most effective ways to prevent influenza transmission in the workplace include vaccination and nonpharmaceutical interventions, such as staying home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes; washing hands frequently, and routinely cleaning frequently touched surfaces. A full-time worker is defining as an employ person who reporting usually working ≥35 hours per week.
CPS data also provide information that can be using to maintain situational awareness during the interpandemic period; to evaluate the impact of control measures implemented during a pandemic (e.g., social distancing measures); and to inform future pandemic preparedness and response planning.
Impact of control measures
Health-related workplace absenteeism is defined as working <35 hours during the reference week because of the worker’s own illness, injury, or other medical issue. State and local health authorities, as well as employers; might wish to consult these results when developing and targeting prevention messages and use them to monitor long-term trends for their jurisdiction during interpandemic periods.
Vaccination and nonpharmaceutical interventions recommended for everyday use, such as staying home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes, practicing hand hygiene, and routinely cleaning frequently touched surfaces, are the most effective ways to prevent influenza transmission during seasonal epidemics, both in the community and in the workplace.