Whether it's a White Elephant Christmas party or passing around a tin of holiday treats, that's a lot of hands making the rounds during the prime of flu season.

In the U.S. alone, companies lose $1,685 per employee a year from employees calling in sick or attending work sick and not performing at their expected high caliber. In all, the absences will cost companies around $74 billion a year.

Currently in the state of Texas, the flu illness is classified as "high" and those able are encouraged to be vaccinated. The illness, including the dangerous H1N1 (swine flu) virus, has been blamed in at least five deaths in the state this year.

Those who aren't feeling well should think twice before heading to work, although 59% of people attempt to work through a cold or the flu, according to a report by Kimberly-Clark.

Some tips for avoiding germs and staying healthy this flu season include:

Cough or sneeze into a tissue or, if you have to, your elbow, not your hands. Clean your desktop and office door handles regularly with disinfectant. Use an alcohol wipe for phones that are used by more than one person. Wash your hands after touching elevator buttons, stair rails or escalator arms. Use a tissue or the edge of your sleeve or shirt to open doors.