Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  03 May 2012

HEALTH: Fight Flu at Work the Old-Fashioned Way This Winter


Recent Gauteng Business News

With the scientific community still undecided on the effectiveness of flu vaccines, Dr. Lerato Motshudi of Alexander Forbes Health says there are other, proven, ways to reduce the transmission of influenza in the workplace this winter.

There is equally as much evidence supporting the efficacy of flu vaccines in reducing the incidence and complications of influenza as there is evidence suggesting that vaccines make little to no difference to the spread of infection and flu complications in healthy people.

As such, “getting back to the basics of good hygiene in the workplace offers a cheaper and more effective way of reducing staff absenteeism this winter” says Dr. Motshudi.

Flu vaccines do not immunise work forces against flu. Instead, theoretically, they boost immunities, making individuals more resistant to the acquisition of specific flu viruses and, hence, “reduce the rate and severity of infection – in theory saving companies millions in lost person hours” explains Dr. Motshudi. The truth of the matter is, however, a little more varied.

Certainly, there are individuals for whom these vaccinations may work and equally, there are those who will not be impacted at all. The intention with vaccination is to advantage the healthy individuals who are looking to remain healthy during peak flu season. This result, however, has not been conclusively demonstrated.

Instead, Dr. Motshudi and her team argue that as an alternative to spending, say, R110 000 vaccinating 2000 employees, “companies can put a few basic hygiene practices in place that are proven to reduce the transmission of bacteria and flu viruses, lessening the burden of infections and minimising absenteeism in the work place.”

These Practices Include:

· Promoting the washing of hands with soap and water - before eating, after using the bathroom or after touching your nose and mouth. “The flu virus is airborne and enters people’s systems through their mouth and nose. Reducing the ability and the amount of virus that hitch a ride to your mouth or nose on your hands will reduce infection rates” explains Dr. Motshudi.

· Maintaining normal person spaces. When engaging with the people, keeping a normal person space in between allows for general infectious flu agents that may be present to be well diluted by sufficient air, decreasing the number of viruses that eventually get through.

· Ensuring good ventilation of work places. “Open windows or good ventilation systems in cases where windows do not open all have a measurable impact on reducing airborne hazardous substances” says Dr. Motshudi.

· Encouraging healthy eating. “Consuming vitamins C and E (fresh fruit and most vegetables) in winter is proven to boost immunity and reduce the severity of flu infections” says Dr. Motshudi.

· Having a brisk walk outside at lunch or other regular exercise. “Effective regular exercise sessions that double your heart rate have a documented benefit on the immune system” says Dr. Motshudi.

Dr. Motshudi adds that amongst designated groups, like the aged, those living in hostels or any groups of individuals with compromised immune systems (diabetics, cancer patients, the highly stressed, HIV infected, etc.), flu vaccines have shown to be up to 90% effective in reducing transmission of infection as well as complications. As such, flu vaccines should most definitely be encouraged amongst these populations.

In normal healthy populations, however, there is no conclusive evidence that flu vaccines make much difference.

Instead, promoting the basics of good hygiene in the workplace offers “a cost-effective and scientifically proven method to improving organisational health, decreasing flu cases and minimizing financial loss through absenteeism this winter” adds Dr. Motshudi.

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