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Prevent Flu: Steer Clear of Sick People

When flu infects your friend or co-worker, how close is too close?

Making It Work at the Office: Sickies in the Cubicle

If you haven't hauled yourself into the office, even though you knew you had a flu bug, you're in the minority. "Presenteeism" -- when sick people show up for work -- is a real problem in American offices.

"Companies may want to adopt health policies encouraging workers to get a note from a physician excusing them from work," says Schwartz. "But most employers would be afraid to do that because absentee rates would go up. Some people would go to work even if they were dying because they're afraid of the boss."

People have to use common sense, he says. "A flu shot is a good idea, but it only protects you from a few viruses that the CDC has identified. I hear it all the time, people get the flu shot but got sick anyway."

Making It Work at School: Toy-Toting Flu Germs

In day care facilities and schools, it's equally difficult to protect against flu infection, says Brownfield. If one child is carrying a flu bug, everyone is exposed. Studies show that day care centers are prime breeding grounds for the flu virus with all that toy-sharing, sneezing, and coughing in close quarters.

Some viruses can live from 20 minutes to two hours or more on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks, the CDC reports.

For seasonal flu, getting children vaccinated is the best start. But what else can you do? You just go back to the basics. "Hand washing is extremely effective in limiting spread of the disease," says Schwartz. "Teachers may need to be reminded, and so do kids."

Reviewed on October 01, 2010

To prevent the flu: