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Ensure workers are protected before flu season hits

Understand the symptoms, spread, and exposure risk

Posted September 8, 2023

Seasonal flu is a contagious illness caused by various strains of influenza that affect the respiratory system, mainly the nose, throat, and lungs. Because flu viruses often mutate, it can be difficult to limit the severity and spread of infection. As flu season approaches, it’s important to understand the symptoms, how the virus spreads, and best practices for limiting worker exposure to the viruses. A new OSHA fact sheet (FS-4290) outlines symptoms, transmission, prevention and control, and recommendations for employers with workers at increased risk.

Flu spreads from person-to-person via tiny droplets in the air when people cough, sneeze, or talk, or via contaminated surfaces. People infected with the virus are most contagious 3-4 days after developing symptoms, and depending on the strain, symptoms can be mild or severe.

They include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting/diarrhea

Healthcare workers and those who work in crowded environments are at greater risk of exposure to the flu virus. To reduce the spread of flu in the workplace, OSHA recommends that employers encourage workers to get a flu vaccine; practice proper handwashing and appropriate coughing and sneezing etiquette; and to stay away from others when sick.

This article was written by Carmen King of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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