Your job may significantly increase your risk of catching the flu, with potential implications for the spread of other infectious diseases including COVID-19, according to new research.
On average, working folks are 35% more likely to get the flu than those without jobs, but an analysis of U.S. federal data found sharp differences between certain jobs and industries.
The more work-related contact people had with others, the greater their flu risk. For example, people working in sales had a 41% higher risk than farmers, and those in education, health and social services jobs had a 52% higher risk than miners.
The findings took into account individual characteristics such as vaccinations and health insurance.
Rates were larger in bad flu years and were consistent with regard to company size, number of jobs and hours worked, according to research accepted for publication in the Journal of Public Economics.
Researchers suggested their findings could influence government policies on several issues affecting private companies, from design and management of physical work spaces to policies on sick leave and remote work.
Study author Dongya Koh, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Arkansas Sam M. Walton College of Business, said the findings shouldn’t surprise anyone.
“We hope they are relevant for an understanding of the spread of flu and other infectious diseases transmitted via respiratory droplets or close human contact, including SARS and COVID,” he said in a university news release.
Koh said the results open the door for an assessment of “nonpharmaceutical policies” to combat contagion and possibly pandemics.
“In this sense, we think these results provide a basis for an organizational policy that both protects workers and optimizes production and efficiency,” Koh said.
The American Academy of Family Physicians offers flu prevention tips.
SOURCE: University of Arkansas, news release, June 26, 2021
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