Flu is upon us: to call in sick or not to call in sick?

The flu is bad enough when you’re sick, and even worse if you don’t have paid sick leave

January 14, 2013

Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, who directs the Illinois Department of Public Health, said Illinois hasn’t declared a public health emergency, but that it’s still important to take the flu seriously.

"We are facing a very serious flu season both in Illinois and across the country," said Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in a press release.

Illinois is one of the 24 states that are reporting higher-than-normal flu activity for this time of year.

It’s not too late to get the flu shot, Hasbrouck said in a press conference with Quinn on Monday, but even if you’re not the needle type, you can still wash your hands and cover your cough.

“If you’re suffering from the flu,” Hasbrouck said, “we want you to stay home, stay out of school, and stay out work until you get better, so you’re not getting everyone else infected with the flu.”

Officials say the virus thrive in populated indoor spaces, so staying home if you’re sick is a great preventive measure.

But for some people, being sick doesn’t always mean you can stay home.

Vicki Shabo directs work and family programs for the National Partnership for Women and Families. She says a big problem being overlooked is that at least 40 percent of the people who work in the United States don’t have paid sick leave.

That means for nearly 44 million Americans, the choice to stay home isn’t an easy one.

“And so those folks, we know, are more likely to show up for work when they’re sick, simply because they can’t afford to take sick time without pay or because they’re in fear of losing their jobs,” Shabo said.

On top of that, workers in the service sector, those who are most likely to be exposed to the flu, are also the least likely to have paid sick leave.

"The result is a recipe for increased contagion in our workplaces, communities, and across the nation," wrote Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families.

Common symptoms of flu include sore throat, high fever, cough, body aches, and fatigure, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Information about the flu vaccine can be found on their flu website.