Small Business Owners, Productivity and the Flu Season

Why a Flu shot is important

Each year, 5-20% of people across the U.S. are infected with the influenza virus.

Influenza is a highly contagious viral respiratory infection that affects the nose, throat and lungs. It is spread by droplets made when people with the virus cough, sneeze or talk. It can also be spread by contact with contaminated surfaces (i.e. toys, tables, doorknobs). Thus, it can spread very rapidly in the workplace.

Flu and the workplace according to the CDC

Flu prevention 

“While an annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent influenza, three out of every five people in the United States report not being vaccinated. The impact of flu on workplace health and productivity is substantial. American businesses, employees and communities can help CDC prevent and control the flu by promoting annual flu vaccination.

Every year influenza, or “flu,” affects employers and businesses. Flu costs the U.S. approximately $10.4 billion* in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits for adults.

While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine protects against the viruses that research suggests will circulate the most this season.

There are several flu vaccine options available: 

·       Traditional flu vaccines made to protect against three different flu viruses (called “trivalent” vaccines) will be available.

·       Flu vaccines made to protect against four different flu viruses (called“quadrivalent” vaccines) also will be available.

·       For a complete list of all flu vaccine options, visit:

*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.

Chart Source: CDC*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.

Getting vaccinated against the flu is the best way to prevent the influenza virus. It is recommended that employees and their family members get an annual vaccine.


As more people get vaccinated, the occurrence of flu that is present in the community decreases. This lowers the probability of flu infection. Additionally, it has been shown to decrease doctor visits, hospitalizations and also decreases the likelihood of one missing work and/or school due to illness. Vaccination also lowers that chance of death due to complications from the flu.

In the 2014-2015 flu season, the Influenza pandemic cost the U.S. economy approximately $87 billion. It also accounted for 40 million illnesses, 19 million medical visits (i.e. Dr office, ER, urgent care) and 970,000 hospitalizations. Additionally, it accounted for nearly 17 million lost work days.

Health care issues do disrupt business continuity. The impact of the flu on the health and productivity of the workplace is quite substantial. Employers and businesses can help the CDC and help one another by promoting the flu vaccine to all employees. This will not only increase productivity but it will also lower healthcare costs and limit complications from the flu.

It is vital that if you have the flu, you should stay home to avoid infecting others in the workplace and the community. Other ways to avoid the spread of infection are to frequently perform hand-washing, cover your cough/sneeze, avoid close contact with anyone who is sick and disinfect contaminated surfaces frequently

Flu season generally starts around October and can last through May. It is recommended that all people age 6 months and older (unless contraindicated by medical condition or status) get vaccinated preferably prior the end of October, as it does take up to 2 weeks for antibodies to form and begin to protect you against the flu.

More from the CDC:

Flu Vaccination

Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?

Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

During recent flu seasons, between 80% and 90% of flu related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older. “Flu season” in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May.

During this time, flu viruses are circulating at higher levels in the U.S. population. An annual seasonal flu vaccine (either the flu shot or the nasal spray flu vaccine) is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others.

When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community.

How do flu vaccines work?

Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.

Traditional flu vaccines (called “trivalent” vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. There are also flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines).

These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus.

What kinds of flu vaccines are available?

CDC recommends use of injectable influenza vaccines (including inactivated influenza vaccines and recombinant influenza vaccines) during 2016-2017.

The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2016-2017.

Both trivalent (three-component) and quadrivalent (four-component) flu vaccines will be available.

Trivalent flu vaccines include:

Quadrivalent flu vaccines include:

  • Quadrivalent flu shots approved for use in different age groups.
  • An intradermal quadrivalent flu shot, which is injected into the skin instead of the muscle and uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot. It is approved for people 18 through 64 years of age.
  • quadrivalent flu shot containing virus grown in cell culture, which is approved for people 4 years of age and older (new this season).

Are any of the available flu vaccines recommended over others?

For the 2016-2017 flu season, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with either the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) or the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV).

The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2016-2017.There is no preference for one vaccine over another among the recommended, approved injectable influenza vaccines.

There are  many vaccine options to choose from, but the most important thing is for all people 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine every year. If you have questions about which vaccine is best for you, talk to your doctor or other health care professional.

Who should get vaccinated this season?

Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season.

This recommendation has been in place since February 24, 2010 when CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for “universal” flu vaccination in the United States to expand protection against the flu to more people.

Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza. See People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications for a full list of age and health factors that confer increased risk.

More information is available at Who Should Get Vaccinated Against Influenza.

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***The intent of this article is not to serve as medical advice… it is intented to serve as an information resource to facilitate a discussion with your medical professional.***