Workers who are still healthy are stepping in to cover for absent colleagues, and owners are looking outside their companies for backup help. Larger companies are also strained, but the situation is tougher on small businesses because they're thinly staffed after holding off on hiring since the recession.
Brasco and her husband, Joe, have managed to find substitutes when workers have called in sick. But with the flu rampant in New Jersey, they're recruiting more backup drivers. It's not a simple process - drivers have to be licensed to drive a limo, and they have to pass drug and background tests.
If all else fails, the Brascos have to sub for their workers. When a driver called in sick during the flu season last year, Joe Brasco put on a tux and drove a Rolls-Royce for a wedding.
The Brascos are taking other precautions: Limos and buses are being scrubbed down each time they are used.
"It's an enclosed cabin," Ann Marie Brasco says, "with everyone breathing in the same air."
The company has already lost some business because of the flu. One family that hired a bus for their daughter's 16th birthday party had to cancel. The Brascos didn't charge the family, but instead gave them a credit for a future rental.
At Preapps.com, three of the company's 10 workers were out sick with the flu at the same time. It was particularly bad timing - the Boston-based mobile applications company is preparing for a product launch Thursday.
Owner Sean Casto says the flu has wreaked havoc in other ways, as well.
"It's not just our team," he says. "It's other companies that we're trying to have potential meetings with - we've had to delay meetings."
Staff members worked from home as much as they could - one of the big silver linings in a company whose work revolves around computers. But productivity is still suffering, Casto says.
Researchers at Pepperdine University say small businesses are taking a bigger hit from the flu than larger companies. Preliminary results of a survey under way show that smaller companies are experiencing a greater loss of productivity and higher costs from the epidemic, says Craig Everett, associate director of Pepperdine's Private Capital Markets Project, which is conducting the survey.
"One possible explanation is that small firms were already stretched thin by the recession and are now essentially playing the game without a bench," Everett says. "Small businesses may be less capable of covering for their sick employees, resulting in a more negative impact on output."