A third of workers who have the flu still report to work, according to a new public health survey of New York metro area residents commissioned by South Nassau Communities Hospital.
Men 50 and older were more likely to report to work with the flu even though many are aware that the sometimes-deadly disease can easily spread, the survey found, with 37 percent reporting that they had gone to work despite having a flu diagnosis. By contrast, 28 percent of women 50 or older reported that they went to work with the flu.
About 93 percent said they are aware that the flu is spread person to person, and 66 percent said they knew that the flu could be fatal. Yet, just 57 percent of those surveyed said they had gotten the flu shot. Some 33 percent of all respondents reported that they had gone to work with the flu at least once.
A total of 600 adults in New York City and on Long Island were reached by phone last month for the South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll. The survey was conducted as part of the hospital’s mission of improving education around critical public health issues.
“The South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll is meant to shine a light on public health issues that deserve more attention,” Richard J. Murphy, South Nassau’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “The more information the public has about issues like the flu, the better prepared they will be to protect themselves and members of their families.”
According to Dr. Adhi Sharma, South Nassau’s chief medical officer, the flu causes thousands of hospital visits that could be avoided with simple preventative measures, like getting the flu shot, washing hands frequently and staying at home when sick.
“Our ultimate goal is educate the public about health issues so they can take better care of themselves and seek out appropriate medical care when needed,” Sharma said. “For your health and the well-being of your co-workers, stay home if you have the flu!”
Those with the flu can infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and between five and seven days after becoming sick, said Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, South Nassau’s Department of Medicine chair and the hospital’s epidemiologist. Young children and those with a weakened immune system might be able to infect others for an even longer time, added Glatt, who is also a spokesman for the Infectious Disease Society of America.
The New York State Health Department last month declared the flu to be widespread in New York State with confirmed cases in 39 counties and all boroughs of New York City. As of Dec. 28, 658 flu-related hospitalizations were reported in New York, according to the health department.
About two-thirds of people surveyed agreed that people should get a flu shot every year, while 16 percent said they didn’t think a flu shot was necessary. Only 57 percent of those responding, however, said they had received one.
Forty-two percent said they believed you could get the flu from the flu shot while an equal number of respondents thought the opposite. Some 58 percent of residents surveyed, meanwhile, are aware it is possible to get the flu more than once a year.
“While you can get the flu, even if you receive the flu vaccine, it is still a very good idea to get the flu shot,” Rabbi Glatt said in a statement, adding that it is not too late in the season to get the shot. “The flu shot — while not effective in all cases — is the best preventative measure we have.”