Navigate Up

UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
For Journalists
Managers
Telephone: 412-647-9975
Director
Telephone: 412-586-9777
Other Inquiries


Universal Paid Sick Leave Reduces Spread of Flu, According to Pitt Simulation

PITTSBURGH, June 13, 2013 – Allowing all employees access to paid sick days would reduce influenza infections in the workplace, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health modeling experts.
 
The researchers simulated an influenza epidemic in Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County and found that universal access to paid sick days would reduce flu cases in the workplace by nearly 6 percent and estimated it to be more effective for small, compared to large, workplaces. The results are reported in the online version of the American Journal of Public Health and will be in the August print issue.
 
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people with flu stay home for 24 hours after their fever breaks,” said lead author Supriya Kumar, Ph.D., M.P.H., a post-doctoral associate in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “However, not everyone is able to follow these guidelines. Many more workers in small workplaces than in large ones lack access to paid sick days and hence find it difficult to stay home when ill. Our simulations show that allowing all workers access to paid sick days would reduce illness because fewer workers get the flu over the course of the season if employees are able to stay home and keep the virus from being transmitted to their co-workers.”
 
In addition to investigating the impact of universal access to paid sick days, Dr. Kumar and her colleagues looked at an alternative intervention they termed “flu days,” in which all employees had access to one or two paid days to stay home from work and recover from the flu. The idea behind flu days is that they encourage employees to stay home longer than they currently do, thus reducing the potential for them to transmit illness to colleagues at work.
 
Giving employees one flu day resulted in more than a 25 percent decrease in influenza infections due to workplace transmission. A two flu-day policy resulted in a nearly 40 percent decrease. The researchers found that flu days were more effective for larger workplaces, defined as having 500 or more employees.
 
Dr. Kumar and her colleagues used a modeling system developed at Pitt Public Health called “Framework for Reconstructing Epidemic Dynamics” (FRED), which is part of work housed in Pitt’s Modeling of Infectious Disease Agents Study (MIDAS) National Center of Excellence. MIDAS was initiated by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to investigate novel computational and mathematical models of existing and emerging infectious diseases.
 
“Our mission is to protect the U.S. and the global community against communicable infectious disease threats,” said senior author Donald S. Burke, M.D., Pitt Public Health dean and UPMC-Jonas Salk Chair of Global Health. “Our modeling work allows scientists both here and worldwide to investigate strategies to minimize epidemics. At the heart of this effort is free, open data sharing.”
 
“These findings make a strong case for paid sick days,” said Dr. Kumar. “Future research should examine the economic impacts of paid sick-day policies.”
 
Additional authors of this study include John J. Grefenstette, Ph.D., David Galloway, M.S., and Steven M. Albert, Ph.D., all of Pitt Public Health.
 
This work was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences grant U54GM088491.

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com