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Last flu season took heavy toll, Walgreens study finds
October 16th, 2013
DEERFIELD, Ill. – A Walgreen Co. study reveals that the 2012-13 flu season was one of the nation's worst in over a decade, having two to three times the impact over a more typical flu season on the workplace, school, family and other area of people's daily lives.
Walgreens said Wednesday that U.S. adults missed 230 million workdays last season, and children lost more than 90 million school days due to flu-related illness, compared with 100 million lost workdays and 32 million missed school days in 2010-11, according to the Walgreens Flu Impact Report. The online survey, conducted by USamp for Walgreens, polled 1,200 adults nationwide.
Flu activity last season peaked in December 2012, coinciding with the winter holidays and resulting in more than 11 million vacations interrupted or canceled as a result of the flu, a 300% increase over 2011, based on survey results.
"The flu season is always unpredictable, and the impact it can have on individuals and families at home and in the workplace can be significant," Harry Leider, M.D., Walgreens' chief medical officer, said in a statement. "Last year, with flu peaking early, a lot of people weren't prepared and as a result lost vacations and missed out on holidays. This underscores the importance of getting a flu shot early, and our report shows more people are planning to do so, along with taking other preventive measures this year."
Nationally, the report indicates that the flu-related cost to employers in 2012-13 was $30.4 billion, three times the $10.5 billion impact found in 2010-11. Employees who missed time at work due to flu-related illness lost more than $8.5 billion in wages.
In addition, employees missed, on average, three days of work in 2012-13, compared with an average of one day during the 2010-11 season, and 6.2 million Americans missed a business trip in 2012-13 versus 2 million in 2010-11.
And with the peak of last season's flu activity coinciding with the winter holidays and travel season in December, millions of vacations and other holiday festivities were likely spent in bed, the study suggests. More than two out of five (42%) respondents that had the flu last year missed some sort of activity as a result. Those include 17 million holiday events missed (4.7 million in 2011) and 11 million vacations missed (3.6 million in 2011).
Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed (60%) say they will take extra precautions to avoid the flu this year, including washing hands more frequently (87%), getting a flu shot earlier (51%), getting flu shots for family members (49%), limiting time in public places (43%) and trying working from home more often (11%).
The study found that almost a third (31%) of the 2012-13 survey respondents waited until November or later to get their flu vaccination. Walgreens data shows that 20% of the 7 million flu shots administered at Walgreens, Healthcare Clinics and Duane Reade last season were given in January. Also, 79% of respondents think it takes 10 days or less, after receiving the flu shot, for the body to build up full immunity, whereas it actually takes up to 14 days.