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Health Team

Poll: Most work when sick, but hate when co-workers do the same

Posted January 31, 2011 12:41 p.m. EST
Updated January 31, 2011 6:18 p.m. EST

Flu season is well underway, and one reason the illness spreads so fast is sick co-workers and friends.

A new survey finds a majority of Americans admit they still go about their daily activities, even though they're feeling flu symptoms and know they can be spreading germs.

“I go to work no matter what. As a business owner, it's something you have to do,” said Walter Baker.

It’s a sentiment most Americans share. A new national poll finds 66 percent of people still go about their daily activities when they’re feeling flu symptoms.

“The fact that they would knowingly go out while they're ill I think is a bit concerning,” said Dr. Susan Rehm with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Doctors say there’s a big difference between going to work with a cold and going to the office with the flu, which kills thousands every year.

“Influenza is a sudden onset of a severe illness where you have fever, you have aching, you have chills,” said Dr. Steven Lamm, an internist at NYU Medical Center.

Part of the problem might be that people don’t realize how far the flu virus travels. Most Americans don’t know that if someone who’s sick coughs or sneezes, the virus can travel 6 feet away.

Many say even though they do into work when they are sick, they don’t like it when others do it. The poll also found that a third of Americans think they can get the flu from the vaccine, but experts say that’s a myth and that the best way to prevent getting sick is to get the flu shot.

Those who think they are experiencing symptoms of the flu should contact their healthcare provider within the first 48 hours, because they might benefit from antiviral medications that may reduce the severity of the illness.