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Productivity

A workplace epidemic can bring the operations of the business to a halt. If the mail clerk comes to work with the flu and gives it to every secretary, three days later most of the secretarial force may call in sick. If the doughnut vendor gives everyone hepatitis A, the onset of the disease will not be simultaneous, but the disease will last long enough that at some point many workers will be absent. In years past, it was common to close the elementary school for an epidemic of a childhood disease. High-technology service industries that are dependent on skilled personnel are particularly vulnerable: "Between August 18 and December 25, 1987, 116 employees at the three futures exchanges in Chicago developed clinically diagnosed mumps. Three cases subsequently occurred in household contacts of affected exchange employees. Twenty-one persons developed complications; nine were hospitalized."[153] The direct medical costs were over $56,000, with the total work loss probably in excess of 700 days. The potential tort liability was significant: the mumps virus induced premature labor in a pregnant employee. Fortunately, the labor was arrested, preventing a premature birth with the attendant liability for possible brain injury to the infant. The report of this epidemic does not discuss whether any of the infected men were rendered sterile. This corporate epidemic was costly and completely preventable. Yet like most other employers, the futures exchange did not recognize communicable diseases as a workplace issue.

[153]Mumps in the workplace--Chicago. MMWR 1988 Sep 9; 37(35):533-38.


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