Federal agencies Research/studies Worker health and wellness Worker Health and Wellness Office Safety Tips

Worker absenteeism tops four-year high at height of 2017-2018 flu season: CDC

flu shot
Photo: fstop123/iStockphoto

Washington — Health-related workplace absenteeism during the 2017-2018 flu season peaked at its highest level in four seasons and surpassed the epidemic threshold in January and February, according to a recently released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Using data from NIOSH’s Current Population Survey, researchers analyzed the prevalence of health-related workplace absenteeism among full-time workers from October 2017 to September 2018.

The absenteeism rate was 1.7% during the initial month, then rose steadily to peak at 3% in January – the highest percentage since January 2013 (3.2%) – before dipping to 2.7% in February.


Occupational groups most heavily affected by health-related absenteeism in January 2018 were installation, repair and maintenance (4.3%); farming, fishing and forestry (3.7%); and service (3.4%). On average, the most affected workers were male and between the ages of 45 and 64.

CDC recommends employers and public health officials keep absenteeism in mind when developing prevention messages and pandemic preparedness planning. In addition to getting vaccinated, workers can help prevent the spread of the flu by:

  • Staying home when sick.
  • Covering their mouth when coughing and sneezing.
  • Practicing good hand hygiene.
  • Regularly cleaning touched surfaces.

The study was published online July 5 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)