If anyone's going to spread a virulent version of the influenza virus around the world, it's surely internationally mobile employees of global investment banks. Even so, as recently as January 8th, "flu maps" suggested the City of London was strangely free of the Australian flu epidemic. Three weeks later, this is no longer the case.
Flusurvey, which tracks influenza-like activity across the UK in real time suggests the City of London has now become a hot-spot for flu-like symptoms. Anecdotally, the disease is indeed spreading.
"Aussie flu has wiped out the entire team here," says a senior PR person at one large U.S. investment bank, adding that he's off work and so is everyone else.
He's not alone. A London-based headhunter who also works in New York City says he's been in bed ever since returning last week. "It's the Aussie flu," he says. "I stepped off the plane and I feel awful."
Even so, most of the junior bankers we spoke to said they've avoided the near-epidemic, possibly because banks routinely offer employees flu vaccines. Goldman Sachs, for example, has its own on-site health clinic and was lambasted for being front of the queue for swine flu vaccine in 2009. "Most big City firms vaccinate people," says the head of HR at one international bank. "There's a day when a nurse comes in and jabs everyone."
The current flu vaccine is estimated to be 40% to 60% effective at preventing flu viruses. A Morgan Stanley associate who hasn't had the virus and has had the Morgan Stanley free flu vaccine says a colleague who skipped the vaccination was wiped out for two weeks with Aussie flu: "He was off for a long time and needed specialist medication in order to recover. I felt very fortunate that I escaped as I had several one-to-one meetings with him."
Source: Flusurvey (red is very high)
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