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Healthy habits to prevent the spread of flu in your workplace

Is your workplace prepared for this flu season? As many as 42 million people got the flu during the 2018-2019 U.S. flu season. The virus is serious, too. Well over half a million flu hospitalizations and as many as 61,200 flu deaths occurred during the same time frame [1]. Employees who have close contact with a lot of people in the workplace are at an increased risk of getting the flu. Examples include health care workers, teachers, office workers, and other service providers. That’s why your employees need to stay healthy and protect themselves—starting with a flu shot.

The flu shot is effective

Each year the flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor visits [2]. Employees who get vaccinated help prevent the flu from spreading throughout the office.

Those who come to work sick can spread the virus to co-workers—and the associated illness leads to absenteeism, presenteeism, and productivity loss. In fact, U.S. employees miss approximately 17 million workdays because of the flu, costing an estimated $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity [3]. People with the flu can also develop serious complications—such as pneumonia, sinusitis, bronchitis, and ear infections [4]. These employees will likely need to take time away from work to get treatment, or they may miss work entirely. Employees can protect themselves by getting a flu shot and taking other precautions.

Tips for maintaining a healthy workplace

Share these tips with your employees to help them stay healthy this flu season. [5]

  • Get a flu vaccination. This is advice worth repeating. It helps prevent the spread of the virus and protects the workplace and people in your community.
  • Stay hydrated and eat nutritious food, including plenty of water, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Be physically active.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people when possible and keep your distance from others if you are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Try not to touch your mouth, eyes, or nose to avoid spreading germs to yourself.
  • Make sure your home and office have plenty of soap, paper towels, tissues, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes.
  • Remove germs by regularly cleaning items that are frequently touched (doorknobs, phones, keyboards).

Access to care anytime, anywhere

The best way for your employees to avoid or minimize the severity of the flu is by getting an annual flu shot. UPMC Health Plan members can visit their doctor’s office or a participating pharmacy—including Giant Eagle and Rite Aid—to get a flu shot. When a member shows their health care member ID card, the shot will be free. If a member gets a shot at another location and must pay out-of-pocket for it, they will be reimbursed after they fill out and submit a reimbursement form.

When your employees start to feel sick or get the flu, their second line of defense is talking with a health care professional. UPMC Health Plan offers members access to UPMC AnywhereCare: a virtual urgent care visit with a quality provider through a smartphone, tablet, or computer—24/7.* They can even have prescriptions sent to their preferred pharmacy, if needed.

The UPMC MyHealth 24/7 Nurse Line is also available for members to call and talk to a registered nurse who will tell them how to treat their condition at home or advise them to seek care.**

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*Patients located in Pennsylvania at the time of the service will have a virtual visit with a UPMC-employed provider. Patients outside of Pennsylvania will receive care from a provider employed or contracted by Online Care Network II.

**UPMC nurses who answer calls are licensed to assist members located in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Members must be located in one of those states when calling the UPMC MyHealth 24/7 Nurse Line. The UPMC MyHealth 24/7 Nurse Line is not a substitute for medical care. If an emergency arises, members should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department. Nurses cannot answer plan or benefit questions. Members should call the Member Services phone number on the back of their member ID card for nonclinical inquiries.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, May 9). 2018-2019 U.S. flu season: preliminary burden estimates. Accessed July 16, 2019, from CDC website:

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, September 6). Key facts about seasonal flu vaccine. Accessed July 16, 2019, from CDC website:

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, March 28). 2018-2019 Influenza in the workplace. Accessed July 16, 2019, from CDC website:

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, February 26). Flu symptoms and complications. Accessed July 16, 2019, from CDC website:

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, July 20). Healthy habits to help prevent flu. Accessed July 16, 2019, from CDC website: