Most Workers Report for Duty With Flu-Like Symptoms, Global Survey Shows

WEDNESDAY, May 13, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Most people around the world say they would continue to work if they had flu-like symptoms, an online survey finds.

In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, researchers called the findings disturbing.

The survey -- conducted online between October 2018 and January 2019, before the emergence of COVID-19 -- included responses from 533 workers in 49 countries. Respondents included 249 health care workers and 284 others.

Large majorities (over 99% of health care workers and 96.5% of others) said they'd work through "minor" symptoms, such as a sore throat, sneezing/runny nose or cough. And 58.5% said they'd work with flu-like symptoms, including major ones such as muscle aches and fever.

In fact, nearly 27% of health care workers said they would go to work with a fever, as did 16% of others.

And nearly 46% of health care workers would avoid a colleague with flu-like symptoms, compared with about 61% of other workers. Health care workers were more willing to get a flu shot (81%) than workers in other fields (nearly 57%).

The study was published May 13 in the journal PLOS One.

Ermira Tartari, of the International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy Infection and Prevention Control Working Group, led the study. In a journal news release, she and her co-authors called the findings concerning.

"At the time of the present COVID pandemic it is important to realize that health care workers, despite feeling moderately sick during flu seasons, feel the obligation to work," they said.

They said strategies to prevent transmission of flu-like illnesses in workplaces are crucial, especially in health care, where workers often care for patients with weakened immune systems.

Major cultural change is required, along with sufficient sick leave and access to flu vaccination, the researchers added.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on influenza.

SOURCE: PLOS One, news release, May 13, 2020

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