According to new research from the University of Arkansas, the job you have can significantly increase your risk for contracting influenza (“the flu”) and other respiratory infections like Covid-19. Dongya Koh, an assistant professor of Economics at the University published the study.
Koh’s research shows that those who are employed are 35% more likely to catch the flu than those who are unemployed. The study also found that the industry you work is also a factor in your likelihood to contract these viruses. The more contact you have with other people in your occupation, the higher your risk for flu. Those employees in the sales, education, healthcare, and social services sectors are at a significantly higher risk of catching a respiratory virus than other industries like farming and mining.
The findings from this study have the potential for significant impacts nationwide. According to Koh, these results can “provide basis for an organizational policy that both protects workers and optimizes production and efficiency.” These findings can influence everything from governmental policies on companies, company policies on sick leave and working remotely, and even the functional design of workspaces to allow for social distancing.
The CDC estimates that between 5% and 20% of the US population will contract the flu each year. Some people are at higher risk for contracting the flu including young children (especially under the age of 2), older adults (age 65 and over), women who are or will be pregnant during flu season, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and people with long-term health problems or who are immunocompromised. Flu season typically runs between October and March but the recent coronavirus pandemic may prolong or even delay flu season. Common symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue.
Whether you’re out in the work force or staying at home, there are several steps you can take to help prevent the spread of these contagious respiratory viruses. Prevent flu by:
- Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Boosting your immune system by eating healthy, drinking plenty of fluids, exercising, getting enough sleep, and managing stress.
- Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue, disposing of it immediately, and washing your hands afterwards.
- Avoiding people who are sick.
- Staying home when you are sick.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at home, work, and school.
- Getting a flu shot each year.