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A measle-y business problem

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Here's the most interesting business-related information I came across in my daily strolls through the Internet – weeds and all – last week:

The U.S. is close to having more reported cases of measles to date in 2014 than in the previous four years put together. It’s a 20-year high, in fact.

Measles, a so-called “childhood” disease, was considered eradicated in the U.S. in 2000. A vaccine was introduced in 1963, followed by vaccines for mumps and rubella, the familiar MMR shot.

But many people have been wary of vaccination, even since the first, for smallpox, was discovered in the 18th century. It goes against common sense to introduce potentially deadly germs into a healthy person, and despite the benefit to the majority of people, some are harmed by vaccines and even die.

Then, in 1998, a now thoroughly debunked study by a British physician linked immunization to autism, and the issue grew actively contentious. More children go without protection today because of their parents’ fears, and illnesses such as whooping cough, measles, even polio, are on the rise – in part because of this and also because the world has become a smaller place.

Measles is being reintroduced into this country by travelers from abroad.

The threat is compounded by the fact that the disease is so unfamiliar today that doctors, not just parents, often don’t recognize the symptoms until it’s too late and the sufferer has had contact with others.

The state of Ohio, with 249 measles cases reported this year, is so concerned about this resurgence that the governor last week signed an executive order allowing pharmacists to administer the MMR vaccine to adults.

So I searched for information on what obligations employers have to protect their employees from any infectious disease in the workplace. That was an eye-opener. OSHA has requirements for training on blood-borne pathogens and for infectious disease in health-care settings. Many HR professionals advise taking precautions against diseases such as tuberculosis and influenza. Most employers, in their HR policy manuals, tell employees to stay home if they aren’t well.

But that’s about it. We worry about HIV/AIDs, hepatitis and flu, but measles, chicken pox and the like are off the radar. The words “no treatment, no cure” -- which apply to measles -- should be more attention-getting.

So why do I consider this business related? The year the public began to weigh the value of immunization against the perceived risks -- and the anti-vaccination movement gained traction -- was 16 years ago. Those children are coming into the workforce for the first time – and they are vulnerable.

Does that make you vulnerable? It’s something to think about.

Maybe it’s time to review your employee literature and educate yourself on what these almost-forgotten illnesses look like so you can recognize them if you have to.

The week ahead

Developers are finding an appetite for downtown York when it comes to restaurants, with new ones opening or in the planning stages. Is it the key to more complete urban revitalization? The people reporter Joe Deinlein talks to think so.

Also this week, reporter Jason Scott will tell us how many tractor-trailers it takes to move a complete school building from the midstate to New York – and why it’s being done.

The Inside Business focus is banking, finance and investments, with lists on public companies and public company executives.

Find the week’s networking opportunities here.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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