The Impact of Flu Season

November 19, 2019

A new report reveals that the majority of Americans are concerned about catching the flu, but more are taking preventative measures.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Americans who contract the flu call out sick from work or school and more than a third (35%) missed more than a week last year, reducing productivity all over the country, according to a new consumer report. 

The Influenza and the Community report from Stericycle, leading provider of compliance-based solutions that protect people and brands, promote health, and safeguard the environment, located in Bannockburn, Illinois, explored consumer habits and concerns related to influenza as we get closer to the height of flu season around the country.

“Some experts have said that this season is ramping up a bit more slowly, but it’s not necessarily an indication of what’s to come,” says Cindy Miller, chief executive officer, Stericycle. “It was interesting to see how much the flu impacts workplace productivity. More than a third (35%) of Americans reported missing between four to six days of work, nearly a full week. While of course all communities should be cautious about the spread of the flu due to its potentially fatal outcomes, particularly for children and older Americans, this provides another reason for people to care about protecting their communities.”

The report also found that nearly three in five (58%) of Americans are worried about catching the flu this year. However, many are actually taking action to combat that worry.

“Last year we found that 77% said they took preventative measures to keep from contracting the flu, such as washing their hands frequently, getting vaccinated, or wearing a surgical mask in public, while this year 89% percent said the same,” Miller says. “It seems that Americans are becoming more cautious about contracting the flu and protecting those around them.”

Additionally, 55% said they got a flu shot last year, but 61% say they have already gotten or plan to get a flu shot this year. Nearly one-third (31%) of Americans, particularly millennials (35%) plan to receive a flu shot in November, after the CDC recommended timeline in October.

Related: Health Disparities Persist With Flu Vaccines

The majority (47%) of Americans said they will receive a flu shot at their doctor’s office this year, compared to Americans who will receive the flu shot at a pharmacy (34%), at their workplace (13%), or local hospital clinic (4%). T

“This, combined with the fact that so many people are waiting to get the shot until this month, means that healthcare executives must stay extremely diligent in protecting their staff and communities,” she says. “Healthcare executives should ensure that policies are in place, and being followed, for proper sharps handling and safe disposal methods to avoid needlestick injuries, and increased risk of contracting the flu, as well as following OSHA compliance to keep staff and patients safe.”

Raise awareness

Additionally, healthcare executives can help to raise awareness for the best ways for communities to protect against the flu.

The report found that nearly half of Americans (49%) say the best way to prevent the spread of the flu is by washing hands with soap and water, followed by getting the flu shot (42%), and using a liquid hand sanitizer (7%).

Additionally, a growing number of Americans (13%) receive their flu shot at their place of work, and offering this perk may be positive for businesses. Less than half (43%) say their employers offers a flu shot as a workplace benefit. However, 64% say they would think more positively about their employer if they offered flu shots as part of its employee benefits and three in five (58%) would be more likely to work for an employer if they offered employees the chance to get a flu shot while at work.