According to, nearly 111 million workdays are lost due to the flu each year, costing employers approximately $7 billion per year in sick days and lost productivity. The flu season can begin as early as October and last until May. Influenza costs businesses an additional $10.4 billion in direct costs for employee hospitalizations and outpatient doctors’ visits each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Stop the Spread of Germs at Work

Illnesses such as the flu and colds are caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. These viruses are usually spread from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

How to Help

1. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away. Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

2. Wash your hands often. When available, wash your hands with soap and warm water, then rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all skin surfaces. Wash for 15 to 20 seconds. It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps dislodge and remove germs. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. If using a gel, rub the gel in your hands until they are dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in the gel kills germs that cause colds and the flu.

3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth. Germs can live for a long time (some can live for two hours or more) on surfaces like doorknobs, desks and tables.

4. Stay home when you are sick and check with a health care provider when needed. When you are sick or have flu symptoms, stay home. It is important to get plenty of rest and check with a health care provider as needed. Remember: keeping your distance from others may protect them from getting sick. Common symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever (usually high)
  • Headache
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

5. Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food. Practicing healthy habits will help you stay healthy during the flu season and all year long.