For many ill with the flu, staying home isn’t an option

November 13, 2009 – Workers without paid sick leave are often penalized for absences. Congress plans to consider legislation next week that would guarantee workers paid sick time.

Though President Obama has declared H1N1 flu a national emergency and federal health and labor officials have urged sick workers to stay home, for many that’s not an option. A third of the nation’s workers don’t have paid sick days — about 51 million people, according to U.S. Department of Labor estimates last spring. That percentage rises to about 40% in California, according to a study last year.

Congress plans to consider legislation next week that would guarantee workers paid sick time. There is no state or federal requirement for businesses to provide paid sick leave. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) is pushing legislation that would require businesses with 15 or more employees to offer paid sick leave to full- and part-time workers: seven paid days off a year, or an hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) has proposed legislation that would provide up to five paid sick days for workers with H1N1 flu and other contagious diseases.

“We are seeing more and more stories of workers who are infected with the virus but can’t afford to stay home because they don’t have paid sick leave,” Miller said. “This puts both their co-workers and their customers at risk — and could cost their employers money in lost productivity.”

Some employers say paid sick leave saves them money in the long run.

“If they’re sick and they’re getting other employees sick, that’s just going to impact our employees more,” said April Boduc, a spokeswoman for San Diego-based Sempra Energy, which gives employees 10 paid sick days a year and allows them to bank unused days and donate vacation days to sick co-workers.

Six Easy Ways to Avoid Getting H1N1 (Swine Flu)

Federal health officials now say that 4,000 or more Americans likely have died from swine flu — that’s about four times the estimate they’ve been using.

Understand that the only way the H1N1 virus can get into the body to infect it is by way of the nose and the mouth.  Children and seniors are particularly vulnerable. The best form of defense then is to simply not be a suitable “host” when this virus comes into contact with YOU. If the virus cannot attack you then it cannot reproduce and cause all sorts of secondary (and often more deadly) problems. The secret then is to prevent the illness taking hold. Here are some tips to stop that from happening:

1.          You’ve no doubt heard it before but it’s worth repeating: wash your hands as often as possible, or use hand sanitizer if you’re not going to be near water.

2.         Avoid, if possible, touching your face (yes it’s hard, if you’re a habitual face-toucher you might even have to resort to wearing gloves!

3.         Be sure to gargle every day (twice is best but once is better than nothing). Use salt water, which will kill any bacteria in the mouth. If you prefer, you can use Listerine. The cost of the salt or the Listerine is much cheaper than taking time off work or having to go back and forward to the hospital so this is money well spent.

4.         Not so nice to do but one that experts nonetheless recommend: swab each nostril with warm salty water to avoid the germs being breathed in.

5.         As with all healthy regimes, keep your immune system in tip-top condition by following a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep and exercise and taking vitamin supplements. Zinc is a great all-round immune system booster (it’s great even if you have just a simply cold) as is Vitamin C and Vitamin C-containing fruits and vegetables.

6.         Keep up your intake of hot liquids (your mom was right about chicken soup being a great illness remedy). This will stop germs reproducing in the stomach. Other drinks like tea, coffee, bouillon and herb tea are just as beneficial so be sure to keep well hydrated.

The above strategies will help arm you against this difficult and pandemic H1N1 or swine flu virus.

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