BALTIMORE — As flu season kicks into high gear, a new report is revealing the unhealthy habits of the people entrusted with keeping Americans healthy. According to a survey of nearly 2,000 healthcare professionals, over 40 percent who say they’ve worked while sick actually had the flu as they met patients.
“The statistics are alarming. At least one earlier study has shown that patients who are exposed to a healthcare worker who is sick are five times more likely to get a healthcare-associated infection,” lead author Dr. Sophia Chiu wrote in the survey’s release. “We recommend all healthcare facilities take steps to support and encourage their staff to not work while they are sick,” the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health researcher added.
Of the more than 1,900 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and aides polled, 414 admitted to working while experiencing flu-symptoms. 44 percent of that group reported they worked for at least three days while feeling sick with influenza-like illness (ILI).
The report, conducted during to the 2014-2015 flu season, found that pharmacists were the most likely healthcare professionals to work while having the flu. 67 percent of pharmacists polled said they’ve gone to work while having ILI. The least likely to come into work while sick were nurses. Just under 38 percent said they had come in while under the weather.
The study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, said the main reasons healthcare workers gave for not calling out sick included not feeling “bad enough” to stay home, pressure to be at work to help co-workers, and not being able to find someone to cover their shift.
The CDC recommends that anyone with the flu wait 24 hours from when their fever breaks before returning to work. This year’s flu season is expected to ramp up in December before peaking in February 2018, according to CDC statistics.