Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep, Oprah had a guest on talking about avian flu. I really shouldn't watch such things at night because often, the subjects occupy my dreams. The guest painted a picture of what life would be like should the avian pandemic hit the US. In short, it's like Katrina but everywhere. Hospitals having to pull people off respirators because other, more viable, patients need them. I don't want to bury my head in the sand, and I don't automatically believe everything I hear, but it's concerning.
I had a bad flu about 8 years ago and it's the worst I've ever felt and/or looked. I was actually scared. For the two full weeks I was sick, if I got up at all (just to get a drink, for example), it exhausted me so much that I would go back to bed and sleep for hours. I should have been in the hospital but wasn't really in a mind-set to make that decision for myself. It's a nasty illness, and I'm a really healthy person. Since then, I've gotten flu shots every year except this year (I missed the date...oops). Microsoft offers them onsite and I believe this year was the first year that they were free (before there was a $5 charge).
There appears to be a wide-spread campaign here to educate people on avian (and other kinds of) flu as well as provide tools for prevention. According to the website set up for this campaign, there's a team focused on preparedness and response. Reading what was on the site eases my mind after that guy on Oprah last night. There are also posters all over the place (hallways) here reminding people to wash hands (preferably, their own). There are also stickers on the bathroom mirrors. There are anti-bacterial gel dispensers in the kitchens now (I'm one for washing the funk off AND using the anti-bacterial gel) and employees received mini bottles of the gel, like this one (which I plan to take with me on recruiting events):
I used to get sick after almost every job fair I attended. Then I started taking anti-bacterial wipes with me ("cough, cough, nice to meet you Heather...let me shake your hand") and now I also take Emergen-C or Airborne (yeah, took it coming from and going to Vegas). It might sound like overkill to some but I almost never get sick (knock wood) so it's working for me. I wish I had all this stuff when I lived in Chicago and took the El to work.
Aside from the public health/welfare and good citizen aspects to this, I think companies are smart to also think about the time and benefits costs of sick employees and where they can make an impact. We as individual employees don't want to be sick, the companies would rather help to keep us productive and healthy so it's a win/win.