While Coronavirus Stokes Fears, Flu Could Cost Companies $13B

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts 22 million people of all ages nationwide have tested positive for one of the known types of influenza viruses in the 2019-2020 season. High instances of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) occurred in 45 states and Puerto Rico. While it is difficult for the CDC to predict flu severity, Challenger estimates absences due to illness could cost employers over $13 billion in lost productivity this season.

“The Coronavirus has not had widespread infection rates in the US. However, it is impacting business in other ways. Trade and overseas demand, particularly with China, has slowed as the country is dealing with a nationwide epidemic and a global outbreak,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Shipping is taking a hard hit as China battles the virus, as cargo-carrying vessels bringing supplies to China are now earning 93% below what they made during its peak in 2019, and 95% below peak for crude-carrying vessels, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, The Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell will be talking to Congress this week, which will likely include discussions of how the Coronavirus will impact not only China’s economy but also the US economy.

“While the Coronavirus has yet to sicken many Americans, and hopefully, spread of that disease remains contained, the flu season in the US has begun. After the severe flu season in 2017-2018 affected people across the country, the nation’s employers would be wise to start discussing prevention measures with their workforces if they haven’t already. Encourage workers to wash their hands often and stock soap at all shared sinks, and hand sanitizer in other shared spaces. Remind workers to get vaccinated for the circulating flu types, and tell sick workers to stay home,” said Challenger.

Get more tips to prevent the flu at work.