updated 10/15/2009 7:18:15 PM ET 2009-10-15T23:18:15

Employees of an Arizona county who have flu symptoms or a temperature of at least 100.4 degrees must stay home from work or risk being disciplined or fired under a new policy, officials said Thursday.

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The requirement is aimed at lessening the spread of swine or seasonal flu illnesses among the county's nearly 7,000 employees and among people who visit government buildings, Pima County Board of Supervisors chairman Richard Elias said.

Employees with flu symptoms would be required to stay home until at least 24 hours after the fever ends. A sick employee who ignores a manager's order to go home face disciplinary action or firing.

"It seems like we are being a bit draconian," Elias said. "But in consideration of our employees and their families and people who come in to do business in county buildings, we want people to fee free to call in sick."

Pima County, Arizona's second largest county, has a population of 1 million and includes Tucson.

Jacqueline Byers, director of research for the National Association of Counties, said she hasn't heard of other counties approving such a policy, though some K-12 schools and colleges are taking similar steps.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Christopher Cox said any concerted effort to make sure people stay at home when they're sick is beneficial to the workplace.

Pima County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the new policy, which states that employees who are ill must notify their bosses and allows managers to send employees who have flu symptoms back home.

Extra precautions will be taken among county health care workers, because they work with the sick. County health care workers with flu symptoms would have to stay at home for seven days after the onset of symptoms or until 24 hours after the last symptom is gone — whichever comes first.

The new rules will take effect Tuesday and will probably be lifted in the late spring.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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