In the 2009 H1N1 pandemic alone, estimates suggest that around 5 to 7 million more people got the flu from someone who came to work sick, and that an additional 1,500 people died.
It is also more costly in lost productivity and other costs to require people to work while sick
Some employers have, of course, complained that they couldn’t possibly afford to provide such generous benefits, but research suggests they might gain more that they’d lose if they did provide it. According to the CEPR report, “Firms that provide paid sick days and leave tend to have lower job turnover rates, lower recruitment and training costs, lower unnecessary absenteeism, and a higher level of productivity than firms that do not offer these kinds of benefits.” They specifically note that this is because people can’t work at full capacity when they’re ill, and that trying to push through an illness often just make the condition worse, resulting in even more time off.
Since the Spanish Flu pandemic (which killed 50 million), there have been three flu pandemics, according to the Washington State Department of Health, in 1957, 1968 and 2009, the latter being when a strain of the flu known as H1N1 killed about 284,000 people worldwide.
The 1918 pandemic infect about one-third of the world’s population and killed five percent of the people on the Earth.
According to the CDC, over a three-decade period starting in the mid-1970s, the number of flu deaths in the U.S. ranged from a low of about 3,000 a year to as many as 49,000 in a bad year.
The levels of influenza-like illnesses being reported in 2018 are as high as the peak of the swine flu epidemic in 2009, and exceed the last severe seasonal flu outbreak in 2003 when a new strain started circulating, said Anne Schuchat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s acting director. Swine flu, which swept the globe in 2009 and 2010, sickened 60.8 million Americans, hospitalized 274,304 and killed 12,469, according to CDC data. Deaths from the current outbreak will likely far outstrip those of the 2009-2010 season.
Deaths from influenza and pneumonia, which are closely tied to each other in the winter months, were responsible for 1 of every 10 deaths last week, and that’s likely to rise, Schuchat said in a conference call Friday. There were 40,414 deaths in the U.S. during the third week of 2018, the most recent data available, and 4,064 were from pneumonia or influenza, according to the CDC data. The number for that week is expected to rise more reports are sent to the agency.
The death toll in future weeks is expected to grow even higher because flu activity is still rising—and the number of deaths follow the flu activity. Hospitalization rates are already approaching total numbers seen at the end of the flu season, which may not be for months.