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Managing Risk in the Measles Outbreak

We often think that managing risks for our organizations is all about locked doors, closed circuit TV cameras or shelter-in-place drills. But clearly these responses don’t address all risks. Risks come in many forms – like an outbreak of a serious illness - and effectively managing those risks requires knowledge, understanding, and action.

As of January 30th, there were 102 confirmed cases of measles reported across 14 states. Today there are at least 22 more suspected cases across the U.S. and Canada.

Measles is extremely contagious and a serious threat, especially to the young and those with weakened immune systems. The virus remains for several hours after the infected person has left the room. It is transmitted both by direct contact and through the air. While there is a vaccine, there is no antiviral treatment for infected persons.

Schools, day care centers, camps and civic organizations need to take this situation seriously. While a measles pandemic is unlikely, the virus has re-emerged as a topic of immediate concern among health professionals and political leaders. Proactive measures can be taken which would include:

  • Reviewing children’s inoculation records to be sure they are current

  • Providing authoritative educational material to all parents regarding vaccinations

  • Providing faculty, staff and parents with information on the disease signs and symptoms

  • Encouraging parents to keep children home who have a fever, sore throat or other symptoms

  • Ensuring you have a qualified medical professional available to assess students reporting ill at school

  • Reviewing instructions on hand washing and making hand sanitizers readily available

  • Proving sanitizing wipes to clean surfaces of desks and equipment frequently

Any infection of measles within your organization should be a cause for immediate action. This must include:

  • Notification of local health authorities

  • Activation of your crisis communication plan to communicate with parents, staff, press etc.

  • Immediate in-depth cleaning of your facilities by qualified contamination remediation experts

  • Close monitoring of all children, staff and faculty for signs and symptoms of illness

The CDC says, "Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of getting infected…Unvaccinated people put themselves and others at risk for measles and its serious complications."

Hopefully, the proof of the safety of the measles vaccine for the majority of the population will be accepted once and for all. Until then, we can only ensure that as parents, educations and administrators we are doing all we can to protect our children and ourselves.

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