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Flu Cases Spike Across US with 4.6M Victims, and It May Be Linked to the Strong Economy


The holiday season may be ending, but health officials say flu season is just beginning. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that so far this season there have been at least 4.6 million flu illnesses, 39,000 hospitalizations and 2,100 deaths from flu.

The CDC also says all regions of the country are seeing elevated levels of flu-like illness. 

The government health watchdog found that during the week ending Dec. 21, high levels of the flu were found in the following states:  Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Researchers at Ball State University are also warning businesses to keep sick workers home to reduce the flu among their employees.

A new study recently published in Economics & Human Biology reveals if the economy is on the upswing, the public health community should plan for an increase of the flu. 

Erik Nesson, an associate professor of economics at Ball State, located in Muncie, IN, said labor market-based activities, such as using public transportation and carpools, working in offices, putting children in daycare, and having frequent contact with the public, might help spread the flu.

"Employers should consider differences in the lost productivity from many employees becoming infected with influenza versus the lost productivity from a few infected individuals taking sick leave," Nesson said. "Workers concerned about missing pay or losing their jobs as the result of staying home from work due to illness will be less likely to heed early signs of influenza infection and stay home. 

"Since a person may be infectious while experiencing mild symptoms, this greatly increases the probability that the virus will spread to other workers in the firm. This implies that firms should consider more generous sick day policies, particularly during the flu season," he continued. 

The CDC also warns on its website that it's not too late to get your flu shot. 

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