Flu cases on the rise in Australia

Australia will struggle to reduce skyrocketing influenza rates this winter unless workers heed warnings not to go to work when infected.

The number of people suffering from flu this year has increased fourfold – up to 8000 cases from 2000 reported at the same time last year – and with the usual peak season in August and September still to come, the flu-stricken are being urged to help break the cycle by staying home.

A Newspoll survey has revealed that offices are incubators for infection because more than three-quarters of Australians go to work when suffering from a cold or the influenza virus. An online survey of more than 1200 Australians aged 18-64, including nearly 800 workers, showed most usually succumb to at least one cold or bout of flu each year but 77% of those employed head to work regardless. It may be un-Australian to stay at home when ill, but the cost of battling on at work far outweighs the price of being absent. The Newspoll showed that of the 77% who keep working with a cold or flu, half of them feel guilty about taking time off or don’t want to let their colleagues down. When you are ill, you simply can’t produce the quantity or quality of work you would normally. By going into work you also run the risk of infecting colleagues and continuing the cycle.

The survey revealed it is not just a strong work ethic causing workers to play cold and flu roulette. A quarter of Australian employees who go to work when they have a cold or flu say they feel pressured to by the boss and this figure rises to one in three for younger workers in the 18-34 age bracket. Around 40% of those who go to work crook said if they don’t turn up, they don’t get paid.

Six out of 10 respondents were concerned about picking up colds and flu from public places and around half (53%) felt powerless to prevent winter coughs and sneezes, even though they rated preventative measures such as regular hand-washing, avoiding infected people and eating lots of fruit and vegetables as effective ways to minimize the risk of infection.