Flu Math: How Much the Sickness Costs Us

Far more than just some comfort is lost when so many are ill

I’m sure you’ve heard about this seaon’s flu being one of the most severe in years — or worse, you’ve experienced it. So far, 15,000 cases have been reported, more than three times last year.

We’ve already talked about companies that could cash in on this unfortunate reality, and the downside to such a bad influenza season seems pretty obvious as well: Having the flu is miserable.

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But the flu costs us in more ways than just discomfort.

Let’s take a look:

Workdays: Last year, Americans missed more than 70 million workdays due to the flu — the same number of days in more than 275,000 work years. On average, employers are forced to pay $135 per day per employee in paid sick leave for those out with the flu. At the same time, not everyone gets paid for sick time off. The average person loses $92 per year in wages from sick days. That’s over $3,500 if you work 40 years.

Of course, on the flip side, going to work when you’re sick isn’t much better. Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas says economic struggles are causing more people to work even when ill, which hurts productivity and can get co-workers sick as well.

Care: The average person with insurance can usually expect to shell out around $130 if she gets the flu, between a doctor’s visit, prescription meds and symptom meds. That costs the same as a month’s worth of Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) coffee. For a person without insurance, the medicine itself could cost at least $100. In fact, one out of every three people infected with influenza ends up spending between $250 and $1,000 recovering.

Direct employer costs: Reports estimate that employers lose around $10.4 billion in direct costs — hospitalizations, doctor bills and so on — during each flu season. That’s just about the price of buying a day’s worth of 30-second Super Bowl commercials.

Earnings lost: At the same time, projected loss of earnings due to the illness are estimated to be $16.3 billion — around the amount of money raised in Facebook’s (NASDAQ:FB) IPO and around the cost of building 10 Cowboys Stadiums.

Life: Already this year, the flu has claimed 24 lives. Massachusetts was home to 18 of those deaths, and Boston, which has seen more than 700 cases, declared a state of emergency. Plus, the flu got an early start this year, so the figure above doesn’t even include deaths recorded in late 2012 — still part of what’s considered the same flu season.

Total economic burden: Estimates peg the flu’s total economic cost — including lost lifetime earnings of those it kills — at $87 billion. That’s just under the market cap of global fast-food chain McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) and enough money to buy a flu shot, assuming they cost $35 each, for each person in the U.S. seven times over.

Article printed from InvestorPlace Media, https://investorplace.com/2013/01/flu-math-how-much-the-sickness-costs-us/.

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