Flu season costs reach billions of dollars annually

8:37 PM, Oct 14, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - Flu season is here and the bug can take a bite out of business, to the tune of billions of dollars.

"It costs about $10.4 billion in hospitalization and outpatient costs every year," said Ecolab's Dr. John Hanlin.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a little more than 1 out of 10 will get the flu this year. While 13 percent may seem like no big deal, the dollar amount associated with that percentage is even more taxing when you look at the number of work hours lost due to flu illness.

"That translates into about $7 billion in lost productivity," explained Hanlin.

Missed work days, doctor visit co-pays, medications, it all adds up and while a $20 to $30 flu vaccination doesn't come with a guarantee, it's a start in the big business to fight the flu.

"This is our new training facility," said Ecolab's Brandon Carlson.

Carlson stands in the middle of the facility that's set up to test all sorts of cleaning products that kill the flu virus from sprays to floor cleaners to hand sanitizers.

"According to a study by the University of Michigan, up to 95 percent of people don't wash their hands in a manner that's really effective in combating the spread of diseases," Carlson said.

So much of what we do is with our hands and simply washing them, which costs very little, still remains one of the most effective ways to prevent illness.

The CDC has an entire webpage devoted to proper hand washing. The one thing that most of us do not do is rub our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

The timing of the flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season.

Flu activity in the United States most commonly peaks in January or February, but flu activity can begin as early as October.

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