It's a problem: Kids and adults going to work when they should stay home.
Around any school or office, you hear them coughing and sneezing. Yet
experts' flu prevention advice is clear:
Stay home when you are sick.
The problem is, "With a lot of flu viruses, people can be infectious before
they have symptoms," says Erica Brownfield, MD, a professor of internal
medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Wow. I am almost disappointed that I'm perfectly fine. No skin reactions. No
soreness. No muscle aches. No drama.
And no flu, although a single dose of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine probably
offers no protection. NIH Director Tony Fauci says that my experience is
typical -- those of us who got the swine flu shot haven't had any unusual
Earlier this week, I went to a two-day swine-flu symposium for journalists
featuring all of CDC's top researchers (and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius,
In fact, you're spewing flu germs even before you realize you're
sick, she tells WebMD. "They feel OK, and don't realize anything's wrong. Then
24 hours later, they start having flu symptoms. That's why
viruses are so effective at being transmitted, because people can transmit
without realizing they have the virus."
The onset of the flu feels much like a cold, she explains. "The only
difference is a higher fever with the flu. If they don't think it's the flu,
they may go about their daily business. That's especially true when parents
have to go to work, and need to have their kids in child care."
Making It Work at School: Day Care Disasters
When the flu strikes, preschools, and daycare become hotbeds of infection.
Because of the close quarters, preschool-age children are often the first
affected -- and they pass the flu virus on to family members
and others. In fact, some researchers advise that vaccinating 3- and
4-year-olds against flu might help curb flu epidemics.
Call the pediatrician first to see if you should keep the child at home,
Elementary kids are better about staying home, the CDC reports. In fact, the
flu has caused high absenteeism among students and staff at the country's
119,000 schools. When children practice healthy habits, they miss less school
-- about one-half day less.
Making it Work at the Office: Phone It In
Surveys show that presenteeism -- showing up at work when you're sick -- is
a big problem in the workforce. In 2006, 56% of employers reported the problem,
up from 39% in 2005. Most common reasons for showing up sick: Having too much
work -- and fearing missing deadlines. Nearly 50% feared being disciplined at
work for taking sick time.