The common flu has become an epidemic this flu season

By Kendall Tich

During the 2012 flu season, many small American businesses saw their billable hours shrink dramatically as their employees fell ill and became unable to show up to work.

Jenny Vance, owner of LeadJen, an Indianapolis-based small business, had multiple workers missing four to six days of work during the flu season, decreasing her billable hours by more than 15 percent.

With the start of 2013 came an even faster spreading and more physically draining flu than many previous years. “It seemed like an epidemic,” said Vance. “It was a domino effect. As soon as one person got it, it was like everyone got it.”

In fact, the Center for Disease Control suggests that “everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine this season”.

The actual flu season has passed, but many would say it was the worst flu season ever and employers around the country are still feeling the impact of the health care costs and widespread employee absences.

Because of these absences, those who did not catch the flu had to take work exceptionally hard, even sometimes working overtime when they were not sick.

It was also difficult for many of these businesses to completely replace those who have specific expertise in certain areas.

“What it meant for us was we were playing catch-up and there were some projects where because of sheer illness we got a little behind” said Vance.

This year’s flu season started as early as November, when it usually starts at the end of December and even sometimes as late as January.

In fact, the flu still seems to be spreading in businesses and at colleges and schools across the country.

At USD, classes have seen an increasingly high number of absences, which reflects the absences in the workforce.

“I’ve had about 5 people missing in every class for the past couple weeks” said junior Siena Pugnale. “I’ve been extra cautious about getting enough sleep and trying to avoid those who are sick”.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, from 1976 to today, each year there are more than 200,000 flu related hospitalizations. from 3,000 to 50,000 deaths and nearly 111 workdays are lost due to flu related absences. The dollar figure for all those sick days and lost productivity is approximately $7 billion.

In some cases, these costs drive small businesses into near bankruptcy situations.

In other cases, many employees are forced to work overtime or cover for those who have succumbed to the flu.

The number of people with the flu is a sign that college students especially, who are living in close quarters, need to be especially careful to avoid the germs that cause it.

As the flu takes over the business world, USD students also see how the flu is making its mark on the classes at this university.

It is important for those who are employed or for those who are attending school to take extra caution in being around those who are suffering from the flu.

It is also important to take extra care and see a doctor with symptoms of the flu before infecting the rest of the workplace or school.

It seems as though the flu has turned into an epidemic this flu season. Those who have fallen victim to this epidemic are hopeful that it will end quickly, after being perhaps the worst flu season the world has seen in decades.