Tag Archives: occupational health

Make It Your Business to Fight the Flu

By Stacey Gallaway, MD, MPH, of Occupational Health, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the flu costs the United States more than $87 billion annually, and it is responsible for the loss of nearly 17 million workdays each flu season. Tens of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands die from flu-related illnesses in the United States each year. Infectious disease experts agree that annual influenza vaccination is the best protection against the flu.

Box of tissues and medicine on a wood table (the background is cream pattern wallpaper).

Influenza or “the flu” is a contagious disease that spreads around the United States every year, usually between October and May. Flu is caused by influenza viruses and is spread mainly by coughing, sneezing and being in close contact with others. Anyone can get the flu. It strikes suddenly, and symptoms can be severe, including fever and chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache and runny nose.

Influenza infection is more dangerous for some people. Infants and young children, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions or a weakened immune system are at greatest risk for hospitalization and death due to the infection. The CDC recommends annual vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older. It’s especially important for people at high risk for serious complications, such as those with asthma, heart disease or diabetes. Although the flu is more dangerous for individuals with certain medical conditions, healthy people can become very ill or die from contracting the flu.

There are many different influenza viruses, and they are always changing. Each year, a new flu vaccine is made to protect against the viruses most likely to cause disease in the upcoming flu season. Predicting which viruses will be important in the upcoming flu season is not an exact science. Even when the vaccine is not a perfect match to circulating virus strains, it may still afford some protection against infection or reduce the severity of an infection.

Flu vaccines are manufactured to protect against three or four viruses: H1N1; H3N2; and one or two influenza B viruses. The flu vaccine cannot provide complete protection from an influenza infection caused by a virus not included in the vaccine, and it does not protect against other viral illnesses that have influenza- like symptoms.

This season’s three-component vaccines will contain:
• an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus.
• an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus.
• a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus.
Four-component vaccines will also contain a B/ Phuket/3073/2013-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus.

Stacey Gallaway, MD, MPH

Routine annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all persons older than 6 months of age. Special emphasis should be placed on vaccination of high-risk groups and their household contacts and caregivers:
• Children age 6 months to 5 years
• Adults 50 years of age and older
• Persons with chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease
• Persons who have a weakened immune system
• Pregnant women
• Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
• Persons who are extremely obese (body mass index greater than or equal to 40)
• Health care workers
• Caregivers and household contacts of those at high risk

There is no live flu virus in the vaccination, so flu shots cannot cause the flu. This misconception is common because some people may have a sore arm and a low-grade fever or achiness after getting a flu shot. All these side effects are mild, short- lived and easily alleviated with simple measures, such as a cool compress on the arm or an over-the-counter pain reliever. Symptoms related to vaccination side effects are minor compared to the symptoms of an influenza infection.

Employers can play a key role in protecting employees’ health and safety while increasing productivity, reducing absenteeism, lowering health care costs and limiting other negative effects of the flu. Make it your business to fight the flu.

The Trouble with Sitting Too Much

Many of us have jobs that require us to sit in front of a desk for hours at at a time each day, without getting up to stretch or walk around. In this WIS-TV news story. Dana Rawl, MD, of Occupational Health at Lexington Medical Center, explains the health detriments of sitting too much – and what you can do to fix it.

 

For more information, visit the Occupational Health website by clicking here.

Working Well: Common Hazards in the Office Workplace

By Dana Rawl, MD, MPH

Even though we tend to minimize dangers in comfortable, environmentally controlled office settings, there are still hazards contributing to injury or illness. Recognizing and eliminating or mitigating these office hazards is a primary prevention goal to reduce workplace injury and illness. Three of the common causes for injury in the office setting are slips, trips and falls, ergonomic-related injuries, and eye strain.

Slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of injury in an office setting. Wet floors, uneven floors, exposed electrical cords or computer cables, loose rugs or cluttered areas contribute to most slips, trips and falls. Anticipate icy, snowy or wet weather by placing non-slip matting at door entrances and exits, treating outdoor walkways with ice-melting products or sand, and posting notices for potential hazards, such as washouts or curbs. Clean up spills immediately and use wet floor warning signs. Using skid- resistant carpet on otherwise slick flooring helps reduce falls. Do not stand on chairs, tables or any surfaces other than an appropriate step ladder to reach something at an elevated height. Maintain clutter-free walkways and offices to avoid trips over boxes or stacked files. Keep file drawers closed, and route computer cables and electrical cords out of walkways or rolling chairs. Consider corner mirrors to reduce collisions with other workers coming around a blind corner.

Ergonomic injuries are usually repetitive or positional injuries leading to musculoskeletal strains, tendon or nerve injuries. These injuries are prevalent in the office workplace as most workers are primarily seated during the day as they perform repetitive tasks. Understanding and implementing proper ergonomic design with training can reduce ergonomic-related injury. Adjustable workstations that accommodate body size variations of workers are key in fitting the workstation to the worker. Adjustable chairs with lumbar supports help maintain a neutral posture with both feet on the floor to reduce back fatigue and strain. Positioning of the mouse and keyboard to keep the elbows at a 90-degree angle with the wrists in neutral alignment with the forearms and hands helps reduce hand pain, fatigue and numbness.

Dr. Dana Rawl

Neck strain can be reduced by positioning the computer monitor slightly lower than eye level and by providing document holders to reduce repeated head and neck movement. Make sure the worker is familiar with how to adjust furniture correctly.

Eye strain is another frequent complaint in the office workplace. Long hours of computer use can contribute to eye strain. Taking a 10-minute break periodically to focus the eyes on more distance objects may help reduce eye strain. Headaches are common with eye strain. Florescent lights may be too bright for computer work and should be dimmed, or desk lamps may be more suitable. Glare from outside lighting should be reduced with window shades and/or computer glare screens, or the monitor should be positioned opposite windows to reduce eye strain. Monitors are optimum for viewing at 20 to 26 inches from the eyes and slightly below eye level. Avoid any squinting to see the computer screen. Change font size if needed and have your eyes examined for accurate vision correction by your eye doctor if necessary.

Reducing injuries and illnesses in the office setting involves an understanding and awareness of potential hazards on the part of supervisors, as well as an active program to provide education and training to employees on hazard recognition, prevention and intervention. Observations and monitoring of the worksite with an honest reporting system can lead to elimination or reduction in workplace hazards and, in turn, work-related injuries and illness.

References
Maurer, Roy. “Five Common Office Hazards to Prevent.” Society for Human Resource Management. Oct 29, 2013.
Claussen, Lauretta. “Recognizing Hidden Dangers: 25 Steps to a Safer Office.” Safety + Health. National Safety Council. June 1, 2011.

Lexington Medical Center’s Occupational Health has certified doctors focused on workplace wellness and specializing in occupational and environmental medicine. Read more articles like this one by visiting OccuapationalHealthLexington.com and clicking on Working Well Magazine.