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Seasonal flu, also known as influenza, is caused by a variety of viruses. It is usually worse in the winter period and due to the way the virus can change or mutate it is different every year. People sometimes refer to a bad cold as flu, but having flu can be much worse and it may cause an individual to stay in bed for a few days.
On some occasions seasonal flu can lead to serious disease and hospitalisation, and even death, especially in vulnerable individuals e.g. those who are immunocompromised, have chronic diseases or are pregnant.
The flu vaccine protects against different flu viruses each year, and a prediction is made as to which types are most likely.
This means that for the best protection you need to have a vaccine every year however it also means that the vaccine is not completely protective as some virus types can circulate that were not originally predicted.
The vaccine has been shown to be very effective for high risk groups, children from 6 months to 18 years, and health care workers. The effectiveness of the vaccine can be difficult to properly assess but the estimates of the benefit range from 50-75% less chance of getting the flu each year.
A bout of seasonal flu would undoubtedly cause an increase in absenteeism across your workplace impacting on those employees exposed to the virus, those who are covering colleagues that are absent from work with the flu and ultimately your businesses overall productivity.
In the UK the decision whether to offer workplace based vaccinations to all adults is for a business to review knowing that the evidence suggests it does reduce the working days lost.
It should also be noted that for workplace vaccinations to be effective a high percentage of individuals within the workplace need to be vaccinated to stop spread.
To raise awareness of the effects of the flu vaccination it can help to:
Steve is responsible for the delivery of occupational health services and clinical governance across the company’s health services business. He is a qualified GP and a member of the Colleges of Travel Medicine and Occupational Medicine. He has extensive experience in corporate, travel and occupational health and has worked in Russia, Australia, Singapore and Bermuda during his training. Steve is a member of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine.
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