Flu Season is Here, Along with Liability Questions
It’s that time of year again! And no, we’re unfortunately not talking about the festive start of the autumn and winter holidays. We’re talking about flu season! The dates of flu season vary depending on region, but it’s generally considered to run from October through May.
Flu Season is Here!
The flu, formally called influenza, is a respiratory infection. Caused by a variety of airborne viruses, it rapidly spreads through the air, and infects about 5% to 20% of the United States population every year. The symptoms generally resemble the symptoms of the common cold, and include:
- Body or muscles aches
- Sore throat
However, the flu is usually much worse than a cold. The infection comes on very suddenly, and is generally more intense and long-lasting than a cold.
While the flu is never a pleasant experience, most people recover with bed rest and medication. Still, the flu results in 200,000 hospitalizations every year. 1.4 people out of 100,000 die from complications. Most victims are babies or very young children, elderly people, and people with compromised immune systems. Certain strains of the flu, like the H1N1 strain that caused the swine flu pandemic in 2009, are more dangerous than others, but for vulnerable groups, even a common strain can turn deadly.
Preventing the Flu
Thankfully, the flu is a partially preventable disease. While basic hygiene measures, like handwashing and avoiding contact with others when ill, can help to cut down on the spread of the infection, vaccinations also play an important role. The vaccine, generally administered via needle, causes antibodies to develop in the body within two weeks of vaccination, leading to increased protection against the flu. According to the Center for Disease Control, vaccination reduces the flu by around 60%.
Not all people support vaccinations, though. Some religions, including Christian Scientists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, oppose vaccination, although most major religions do not take an explicit stance on vaccination. Others worry about the potentially harmful effects of vaccines, particularly citing the link between autism and certain ingredients in vaccines, including the flu vaccine. And for people with certain health conditions or allergies, getting the flu vaccination actually puts them at risk.
Since many people do oppose the flu vaccine for religious or health reasons, liability and legal issues can arise during flu season. In particular, people opposed to vaccination may have legal concerns about mandatory vaccination in the workplace, while people who favor vaccinations wonder if an unvaccinated person can be held responsible for the spread of illness.
When it comes to mandatory vaccinations, a lot depends on the workplace. In certain industries, particularly healthcare, preventing the spread of illness is vital. Since healthcare workers are constantly around people with vulnerable immune systems, mandatory vaccination is becoming more common. Generally, however, an employee can request exemption from a mandatory vaccination without the risk of firing or discipline, if they can confirm that religious or health concerns prevent them from getting the vaccine. Employees who choose not to get the flu vaccine may be asked to take other measures, like wearing a mask.
For other people, the fear of contracting a disease from a non-vaccinated person is just as scary as the idea of getting vaccination against your will. This particularly affects people who cannot get the flu shot for health reasons and children too young to receive vaccines. Because they cannot get their own vaccination, they rely on others to not spread the flu. Arguably, preventing disease is a reasonable action, which means that people who do not vaccinate are making a negligent decision. This means that, although no major cases have occurred, someone could technically sue another person for negligence over a lack of vaccinations.
Doing Your Part
No matter how you feel about vaccinations, most people can agree that the flu is a terrible thing! Aside from vaccinations, other preventative measures include:
- Staying home from work, school, and other activities when ill
- Keeping your hands clean
- Avoiding touching your nose and mouth
- Drinking plenty of water, staying well-rested, and avoiding stress
If everyone takes these steps, we can reduce flu season dangers and protect not only ourselves, but the vulnerable members of our community who need it the most!
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.