Most workers report for duty with flu-like symptoms, global survey shows

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 healthcare workers and 284 others.

Large majorities (over 99% of healthcare 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.

The obligation to work

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

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

The study was published 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 realise that healthcare 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 healthcare, 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.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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