Most of the 600 people surveyed on Long Island and...

Most of the 600 people surveyed on Long Island and in New York City know the flu is contagious, but one-third still has gone to work while they were sick with influenza, according to a survey conducted for South Nassau Communities Hospital. Dr. Aaron Glatt and Dr. Adhi Sharma, both of the Oceanside hospital, discuss the results of the survey on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Although more than 90 percent of people surveyed on Long Island and throughout the greater metropolitan area say they’re well aware the flu is spread person-to-person, about a third admitted going to work with the infection, a new poll has found.

Working while sick cuts across a sharp gender divide, according to a survey commissioned by South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside.

Regionwide, men are more likely than women to show up to work with the flu: 37 percent of men aged 50 and older acknowledged doing so, compared with 28 percent of women in the same age group.

Dr. Adhi Sharma, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said the male tendency to report to work with a highly contagious condition may be interpreted as machismo — an attitude of “toughing it out.”

But the survey also may have uncovered segments of the workforce without sick leave, Sharma said. “If you don’t have paid sick time, you go to work sick,” he said.

The survey, conducted in December by the national polling firm, LJR Custom Strategies, is a first-of-its-kind public-opinion barometer for the hospital, aimed at assessing the local population’s understanding of an important public health concern, South Nassau spokesman Joseph Calderone said.

South Nassau doctors will elaborate on the poll’s results Thursday morning at the hospital.

Respondents know that the flu is sometimes fatal, with 66 percent saying they are aware that people can die from the infection. Federal statistics suggest that as many as 36,000 people die of the viral condition and another 200,000 people are hospitalized because of influenza annually.

Hospital officials hope the current survey serves as the first in a series of assessments on other critical health issues. “We basically would like to do a poll a quarter,” Calderone said.

Data in the survey of 600 residents in Nassau and Suffolk counties and New York City revealed that 42 percent of people think the influenza virus can be transmitted by a flu shot. An equal number of respondents — 42 percent — didn’t think the vaccine triggers the infection.

About two-thirds of those surveyed said it’s important to get vaccinated annually, and 57 percent of respondents said they had already gotten a flu shot.

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of the hospital’s department of medicine, said the belief that the flu vaccine causes the infection “is one of those myths that just won’t go away.”

“You can’t get the flu from a flu shot,” said Glatt, who also is the hospital’s epidemiologist and a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He said someone who already is infected could spread the virus to others from about one day before symptoms are apparent to seven days after becoming sick.

Flu season in this hemisphere runs from late fall through early spring, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “And it’s not too late to get a flu shot,” Glatt said.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker last week declared influenza prevalent statewide, and because of his declaration, unvaccinated health care workers must wear masks in the presence of patients.

Sharma, meanwhile, underscored that the goal of polling the local population is to gather perceptions about a critical health issue and provide public education.

The flu, he said, leads to numerous avoidable emergency department visits throughout the region. Preventive steps, such as “cough and sneezing” etiquette, hand hygiene and vaccination, he said, can stop the infection’s spread. He and Glatt defined the etiquette as coughing or sneezing into a sleeve. Hand-washing helps stop the spread of infection.

“Vaccines have saved more lives than anything in medicine, even more than antibiotics,” Sharma said.

Survey results

Should people get the flu shot every year?

Yes: 66 percent

No: 16 percent

Depends: 14 percent

Not sure/Refused: 4 percent

Have you ever gone to work with the flu?

Yes: 33 percent

No: 60 percent

Not sure/Refused: 7 percent

Do you think you can get the flu from the flu shot?

Yes: 42 percent

No: 42 percent

Not sure/Refused: 15 percent

Do you think some can get the flu more than once a year?

Yes: 58 percent

No: 26 percent

Not sure/Refused: 16 percent

Do you think people can die from the flu?

Yes: 66 percent

No: 15 percent

Not sure/Refused: 19 percent

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