During flu season, when fever, aches, and chills hit, it is easy to forget one’s manners. A recent survey of more than 1,000 Americans found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of those who had influenza in the past three years admit to being “That Guy,” who despite experiencing flu symptoms, continues to go about his/her daily activities.
As part of its “Are You That Guy?” influenza education campaign, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is partnering with the Emily Post Institute to remind Americans to do the responsible thing during flu season and practice behavior that will help limit the spread of influenza, a highly contagious virus. The campaign also reminds Americans to see a doctor quickly if flu strikes. The campaign offers flu etiquette tips for managing common situations where the flu virus might be shared from one person to another, such as shaking hands during a business meeting, over a family dinner, or when faced with a fellow airplane traveler who is showing signs of flu.
“Most of us try our best to be considerate and do the right thing,” said Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and co-author of the 18th edition of the Emily Post’s Etiquette book. “While people recognize that the flu virus spreads easily, they admit to tossing proper etiquette aside when they have the flu.”
The survey found that while a majority (81%) agree that a person with the flu should cancel social obligations when she or he is sick, two-thirds (64%) of those who had the flu in the past three years admit to being “That Guy,” who despite experiencing flu symptoms, continued to go about his/her daily activities.
“Every year, millions of Americans get the flu. We are all personally responsible for controlling its spread,” says Susan J. Rehm, M.D., NFID medical director. “The CDC recommends flu vaccine as the first and most important step in preventing influenza, as well as good hygiene and seeing a doctor for possible treatment with prescription flu medicines if symptoms arise. It’s important to know the symptoms of the flu so individuals can visit a doctor quickly to get properly treated before they risk spreading it to others.”
Only one-third (36%) of people surveyed would call their doctor if they thought they had the flu. Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. Influenza occurs most often in the late fall, winter, and early spring. Flu is a serious infection which is associated, on average, with more than 200,000 hospitalizations, thousands of deaths every year in the U.S. and substantial medical costs.
“No one wants to be ‘That Guy’ who spreads the flu to family, friends, or colleagues,” said Post. “Knowing how to politely cancel an event you’re hosting or how to avoid shaking your client’s hand because you’re sick can be difficult and potentially awkward. By following appropriate flu etiquette, we can all play a role in preventing the spread of the flu virus.”
The survey found nearly four out of 10 Americans (37%) are uncomfortable telling “That Guy” that he/she is sick and should stay away from others. The Emily Post Institute recommends the following flu etiquette tips to handle common situations with social grace:
- In the workplace: If you have flu symptoms at work, let your boss know right away that you need to get to the doctor. Just let him or her know, “I don’t feel well—I need to see a doctor. I think I might have the flu.” Better to have others pitch in while you’re gone than risk others on your team becoming sick.
- In social situations: Normally it would be rude to cancel on a dinner party or big event at the last minute, but if you’re sick, call with your regrets and instead, go see your doctor.
- Air travel: It’s tough to point out someone’s behavior mid-flight with hours left to go. However, flu is highly contagious. If there’s no other seat available, consider saying, “I can see you’re not feeling well—would you mind covering your mouth when you cough? Thanks.” Most people when prompted are eager to show good manners and do the right thing.
The Are You That Guy? influenza education campaign and survey are supported by Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.
You can also track flu outbreaks in their region and receive alerts about flu in their communities by visiting www.FluFACTS.com and using the Flu Tracker or by downloading a free Fight the Flu iPhone app www.FluFACTS.com/iphone-app.jsp.
The survey was conducted through ORC International’s Online CARAVAN survey between October 10 and 12, 2011. The findings are based on a national sample of 1,044 consumers, 18 years of age or older. Responses were weighted by five variables including age, sex, geographic region, race and education to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population 18 years of age or older.
About the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID)
NFID is a non-profit, tax-exempt (501c3) organization founded in 1973 and dedicated to educating the public and healthcare professionals about the causes, treatment, and prevention of infectious diseases. Visit www.nfid.org for additional information.