Severe flu outbreak affecting businesses

January 9, 2013 (CHICAGO)

With three months remaining in what is being called one of the worst flu seasons ever, employers around the country are feeling the impact of increased health care costs and widespread absences.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said almost 150 people were admitted to hospital intensive care units with severe cases of the flu from October through December 2012.

Vice president at executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Rick Cobb said businesses are losing billions of dollars in direct costs of hospitalizations, outpatient visits and productivity.

However, while sick employees may thing they are doing the right thing by toughing it out and coming to work when ill, they only make it worse.

"The right thing is for employers to make concessions let people work from home-limit face to face interaction and limit traveling when someone is ill," Cobb said.

Jewel-Osco employees are encouraged to take healthy measures.

"We have the wipes at the entrance of the store and in our headquarters in Itasca," Jewel-Osco spokesperson Karen May said. "The people who are sick stay home and get rested and do not come in and get other folks sick and having a domino effect."

Jewel-Osco's pharmacy business is at an all-time high this flu season with people buying more cold and flu products, according to May.

"I always get my flu shots," Jewel-Osco customer Harriette Manuel said. "I know I should be very watchful at this point."

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