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Study: More jobs might mean more flu



MUNCIE, Indiana – Businesses should take precautions in advance of flu season to keep sick workers home and reduce infection rates that send people to physicians in droves, says new research from Ball State University.

 “The Effects of Employment on Influenza Rates” found that a 1 percentage point increase in the employment rate correlates with increases in the number of influenza-related doctor visits by about 16 percent. These effects are highly pronounced in the retail sector and health care sectors—industries with the highest levels of interpersonal contact.

Erik Nesson, an Associate Professor of Economics at Ball State, said labor market-based activities, such as using public transportation and carpools, working in offices, putting children in daycare, and having frequent contact with the public, might help spread the flu.

“Employers should consider differences in the lost productivity from many employees becoming infected with influenza versus the lost productivity from a few infected individuals taking sick leave,” Nesson said. “Workers concerned about missing pay or losing their jobs as the result of staying home from work due to illness will be less likely to heed early signs of influenza infection and stay home. Since a person may be infectious while experiencing mild symptoms, this greatly increases the probability that the virus will spread to other workers in the firm. This implies that firms should consider more generous sick day policies, particularly during the flu season.”

The study was recently published by Economics & Human Biology. Nesson was joined on the research project by Sara Markowitz, a Professor of Economics at Emory University, and Joshua Robinson, an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The team used state-level data on the prevalence of the flu from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nesson points out that employment conditions can be forecast, to a fairly accurate degree, several months in advance.

 “This information could be used by the public health community to plan for the severity of an upcoming flu season,” he said. “For example, if the economy is on an upswing, the public health community should plan for an above normal increase in flu incidence.

“Our results imply that employment in service industries—particularly retail and health care—is a particularly strong mechanism for flu spread. If our economy continues to shift to more service-oriented employment, the results presented here suggest there is greater potential for flu spread in the future.”

You can access the study at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1570677X18302417.

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Post travels to Panamá


N-Post-travels-Panama

Mikalah Gribbell, of Trufant, and currently a senior at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, is majoring in premedical preparation and biology with minors in Spanish and chemistry. For one week this May, she traveled with the Ball State chapter of Global Brigades on a medical/dental brigade, and took the Post with her.

“Global Brigades is an international organization that works to bring volunteers to underserved and undeveloped areas of the world such as Africa and central and South America,” she explained. “As an organization, they target communities that are willing to work to become more developed and self-sustaining. The organization sends medical, public health, water, environmental, business, micro finance, and human rights brigades to these communities and eventually the communities are brought up to a self-sustaining level where they have a true economy and individuals have hygienic facilities in their homes, access to healthcare and legal support, and the potential for future growth and development.”

Her brigade worked in the Coclé region of West Panamá. “In three days, (with the help of American and Panamanian doctors and dentists) we provided basic healthcare and dentistry services for 432 people. As needed, we filled prescriptions for blood pressure medicines, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, anti-parasitic medications, and allergy medicines. We also taught classes about proper hygiene, sexually transmitted diseases, and caring for aches and pains.” She said that as a group, they also spent one day helping families build hygienic latrines and showers. “The experience was incredible and highly rewarding,” she remarked. “The Panamanian people were beyond grateful for our help, and are looking forward to the other brigades that will visit their communities. I hope to expand on this experience as I approach a career in medicine and consider working in rural/underserved communities in America.”

Thank you, Mikalah, for taking us with you!

Are you going on vacation? Take the Post with you and snap some photos. Then send them to us with some info to news@cedarspringspost.com or mail them to Post travels, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. We will be looking for yours!

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