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) -- A

severe flu

can not only knock Americans on their backs for a week or more -- it can knock the economy on its back.

Data from the



2013 Flu Impact Report

show U.S. adults missed 230 million days of work in the 2012-13 flu season. That translated into a $30.4 billion hit for the economy, triple the $10.5 billion lost from flu issues in 2010-11.

Employees lost $8.5 billion due to flu-related sick days, the report says.

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Walgreens says December was the worst month for flu illnesses in years, but it's not always possible to gauge, year to year, the exact worst time for flu activity.

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flu season

is always unpredictable, and the impact it can have on individuals and families at home and in the workplace can be significant," says Harry Leider, Walgreens' chief medical officer. "Last year, with flu peaking early, a lot of people weren't prepared and as a result lost vacations and missed out on holidays. This underscores the importance of getting a flu shot early, and our report shows more people are planning to do so, along with taking other preventive measures this year."

If the past flu season was any indication, here's what Americans can expect this year:

  • Workers can expect to miss three days of work because of the flu.
  • 6.2 million people could miss a business trip, like last year.
  • 75% of Americans say they will be "personally impacted" by a flu experience this year.
  • 17 million Americans may miss holiday-related events.

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The good news is that Americans are more "flu efficient" than ever.

Walgreens says adults are taking the measures to mitigate or eliminate the flu this year:

  • 87% are washing their hands more regularly.
  • 51% are getting an early flu shot.
  • 43% are "limiting time in public places."
  • 11% are working from home more.

Evidently, Americans have learned a lesson from last year's brutal flu season. They're not waiting until January to get a flu shot -- some get them as early as August -- and more are careful about hygiene and sharing close spaces with fellow citizens.