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Posted: Monday, 17 March 2014 6:19AM

Sick workers not a workplace threat?



A local health official is taking issue with a recent report that says way too many Americans go to work sick.

According to that report, more than one in four American workers recently surveyed said they show up to work while ill, even though they could sicken their colleagues.
 
Dr. Brobson Lutz, health spokesman for the Orleans Parish Medical Society, doesn't necessarily see ill workers as an office threat.

"I know of no data that says staying home with the first onset of little sniffles or anything decreases transmission of any respiratory diseases in the workplace," says Lutz.

NSF International, a public-health testing group based in Michigan, surveyed more than a thousand U.S. adults in the midst of this year's flu season. More than a third of those polled said they wait until they feel the full onset of their symptoms before deciding to stay home.

Lutz says that's not the way to do it.

"You don't feel like you're well enough to work with acute influenza. But, actually, people are most infectious during the early stages and they're less infectious once the symptoms set in. The period of maximal communicability is in the incubation period, or before the person actually comes down with any symptoms."

"In the first few days of illness, somebody can still be infectious," says Lutz. "But in general, with viral infections, people are most infectious the day or so before the actual onset of symptoms and are much less infectious towards the end of symptoms."

The full onset of those symptoms, though, is definitely cause to stay away from work

"Anybody who has influenza, with sudden onset of body aches and fevers needs to be at home, because they're really sick," Lutz says.

But, he doesn't give a pass to those feeling mildly ill.

"For example, if somebody has a fever, they're better off at home, resting and taking fluids. But, if they don't any fever, but just have some mild symptoms...I'm not sure whether they're better off at work or at home. It probably doesn't make any difference."

He says if you've got a cold and you just have a little sneezing or coughing, it's not really necessary to stay home. And, it won't speed your recovery.

"You're going to get over that cold in the same amount of time," says Lutz.

"Everybody gets two to three colds a year, and you're going to get that whether it's from a co-worker or just off the street."

NSF found that a quarter of those who went to work while sick said their boss required them to. Lutz says those bosses may not be getting their money's worth.

"No doubt, some people do go to work sick and are not as productive as they would be and they might be better off at home."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly four in 10 private-sector workers don't enjoy paid sick-leave benefits, meaning if they don't show up for work they don't get paid.

 

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Locations : Michigan
People : Brobson Lutz
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