How to Avoid the Flu at Meetings and Events

March 13, 2018

This year’s deadly flu stories may have faded from the headlines, but spread of the flu is still a concern throughout most of the country.

Flu season typically ranges from midwinter through early spring. Flu symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches and fatigue.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) March 9, 2018, online posting (Editor's Note: the CDC posts regular updates on its website during flu season):

“While influenza activity continued to decrease in the latest FluView report, it remains high across much of the United States. Influenza-like illness (ILI) dropped from 4.9% reported last week to 3.7%, and is now similar to ILI observed at the peak of the 2015-2016 season.

“Current data indicate that the 2017-2018 flu season peaked at 7.5% in early February 2018 (during week five) and is now on the decline.

"However, 34 states plus Puerto Rico continue to report widespread flu activity and 21 states plus New York City continue to experience high ILI activity.”

The CDC recommends influenza vaccination for everyone six months of age and older.

According to the CDC website: Early estimates show that flu vaccine has reduced risk of having to go to the doctor due to flu by 36% overall so far this season and that flu vaccine is offering substantial protection against H1N1 flu as well as moderate protection against flu B viruses.

In the context of widespread influenza activity, the CDC reminded clinicians and the public about the importance of prompt treatment with antiviral medications in people who are severely ill and people who are at high risk of serious flu complications who develop flu symptoms.

Stop the Spread of Flu With NPIs

At meetings and events, planners can help avoid the spread of the flu with non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) such as:

  • Provide flu-prevention supplies in your workplace. Have supplies on hand for workers, such as soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, tissues, trash baskets and disposable facemasks. Plan to have extra supplies on hand during a pandemic. Note: Disposable facemasks should be kept on-site and used only when someone becomes sick at the workplace. Those who become sick should be given a clean disposable facemask to wear until they can leave.
  • Plan ways to increase space between people to at least three feet or limit face-to-face contact between workers and those who come to the workplace. Several ways to do this include offering workers the option to telework, creating reduced or staggered work schedules, spacing workers farther apart, and postponing non-essential meetings and travel.
  • Identify space that can be used to separate sick people (if possible). Designate a space for people who may become sick and cannot leave the workplace immediately. If possible, designate a nearby separate bathroom just for sick people. Develop a daily cleaning plan.
  • Make sure your workplace (or meeting/event venue) has an adequate supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs and disposable wipes.

Other basic recommendations for attendees include the following:

Routinely clean frequently touched objects and surfaces, including doorknobs, keyboards and phones. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water.

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

[Read This Next: How to Protect Meeting Attendees From the Measles Outbreak]

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Marlene Goldman | Contributing Writer