Survey: One-third of flu victims still come to work

Full spread: A new Long Island public-health survey shows one-third of all employees still show up for work when they have the flu.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Workmates making you sick? You don’t know the half of it.

One-third of workers who have the flu still report to work, according to a new public health survey circulated by South Nassau Communities Hospital, a 455-bed not-for-profit teaching hospital in Oceanside – and those who do risk spreading the disease, which in rare cases can prove fatal.

According to the South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll – in which independent Washington-based polling firm LJR Custom Strategies picked the brains of 600 New York City and Long Island residents – men 50 years of age and older were most likely to suck it up and report to work with the flu, with 37 percent reporting they’d gone in despite a confirmed flu diagnosis.

More than a quarter of women in the same age bracket (28 percent) admitted to taking a flu diagnosis to work. Overall, 33 percent of all survey respondents reported going to work with the flu at least once.

Adhi Sharma: Flu? Stay home and rest.

Perhaps most sickening is that an overwhelming majority of respondents – 93 percent – also said they were aware that the influenza virus is spread person-to-person, while 66 percent said they know the flu can be fatal.

With the New York State Department of Health declaring in late December that seasonal influenza had already spread to 39 New York counties and all five NYC boroughs – and that nearly 700 flu-related hospitalizations have already been recorded statewide this season – surveys like the Truth in Medicine Poll are meant to “shine a light on public-health issues that deserve more attention,” according to South Nassau Communities Hospital President and CEO Richard Murphy.

“The more information the public has about issues like the flu, the better prepared they will be to protect themselves and members of their family,” Murphy said Thursday.

Protection issue were front and center in the survey, and while 66 percent of all respondents agreed that annual flu shots are a wise precaution, the message seemed to resonate more among older populations. Some 76 percent of respondents ages 50 to 64 said an annual flu shot is a good idea, and 73 percent of respondents ages 65 and up agreed.

Despite those strong vaccination endorsements, however, only 57 percent of total respondents reported receiving annual influenza vaccinations themselves – with 42 percent saying they believed a person can get a full-on case of the flu from a flu shot (you can’t: the vaccine is derived from an inactivated virus that can’t transmit infection).

The full results of the Truth in Medicine poll are available here.

Adhi Sharma, South Nassau Community Hospital’s chief medical officer, said setting the record straight on those vaccination imperceptions and challenging other flu-related myths are important missions, with influenza “annually causing tens of thousands of hospital and emergency department visits that often could be avoided.”

“Our ultimate goal is to educate the public about health issues so they can take better care of themselves and seek out appropriate medical care when needed,” Sharma said, noting “simple preventative steps” like flu shots, frequent hand-washing and “staying home if they have the flu” are key to the cause.

“You should not be going to work if you are sick for two reasons,” the doctor added. “Rest is important to recovery and, by going into work, you greatly increase the chances of spreading the flu.”


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