You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Flu Safety Steps for the Workplace

Flu Season

Stay Home If You Are Sick

Most of the country is seeing a widespread outbreak of the flu and the American Red Cross urges people who have not yet gotten a flu vaccine to try to get their vaccination now.

WHO SHOULD GET FLU VACCINE? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older. Those with chronic conditions like pulmonary and cardiovascular illness, residents of nursing homes and other facilities and those with many other medical conditions are especially urged to get a flu shot. Full details are available on the CDC web site. There have been some reports that the vaccine supply is running short in some areas.

“Flu season doesn’t peak until late January or February and can last until May, so it is not too late to get a flu vaccine,” said Dr. Richard Benjamin, Chief Medical Director for the Red Cross. “It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to provide full protection, so the sooner someone gets vaccinated, the sooner they will be fully protected.”

Health officials around the country are reporting the flu has arrived earlier than usual and causing fairly severe illness in some patients. In Boston, the number of people with the flu prompted the mayor to declare a public health emergency. In Illinois, the number of sick overwhelmed some hospitals which had to turn people away.

In Allentown, Pennsylvania a hospital set up a tent outside its emergency room to see people with less-severe flu cases. Maine health authorities are reporting a significantly higher number than normal of flu cases, and North Carolina is seeing the highest flu levels in the last ten years.

WORKPLACE SAFETY STEPS The best step someone can take to prevent the spread of flu in their workplace is to get vaccinated. If someone is sick with fever and respiratory symptoms, they should stay at home until 24 hours after their fever is gone without taking medicine. Other steps workers can take include:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
  • Avoid touching the nose, mouth and eyes.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve. Dispose of tissues. Clean hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing one’s nose.
  • Keep common surfaces people touch clean, such as telephones and computer equipment.
  • Don’t use a co-worker’s phone, desk, computer or other tools.
  • Avoid shaking hands or coming in close contact with co-workers who may be ill.
  • SIGNS OF THE FLU How does someone know they have the flu? The common signs of influenza are high fever, severe body aches, headache, being extremely tired, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, and vomiting and/or diarrhea (which is more common in children).

    CALL THE DOCTOR If you think you have the flu, your health-care provider should be consulted. Seek medical care immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Fast breathing, trouble breathing or bluish skin color.
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen (adults).
  • Confusion or sudden dizziness.
  • Not drinking enough fluids, not being able to eat, or severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
  • Not waking up, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held or not interacting (children).
  • Fever with a rash (children).
  • No tears when crying or significantly fewer wet diapers than normal (children).
  • You can find more information about how to help keep you and your loved ones protected by visiting the flu information on this web site.

    About the American Red Cross:

    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.