SAN FRANCISCO — As Google fights criticism that it has let anti-vaccine disinformation flourish on its platform, the tech giant’s Silicon Valley campus, where thousands work, is now confronting its own in-house case of measles as the virus resurges across the United States.
In an email sent to some employees last week and obtained by BuzzFeed News, a staff doctor at Google wrote that a worker who had recently been in one of its Mountain View, California, buildings had been diagnosed with measles.
David Kaye, an occupational medicine physician at Google, wrote that the worker had been in the office on 1295 Charleston Road April 4.
“We have been working with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and they would like us to share this measles advisory, which contains information on measles, exposure risks and actions to be taken,” Kaye wrote April 13, adding that “this note is just a precaution.” Neither Kaye nor Google immediately responded to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for the county's public health agency confirmed Wednesday afternoon that an unnamed adult resident of San Mateo County “who visited Google” had contracted measles. The case is unrelated to previous cases in Santa Clara County, and there is no additional public health risk, according to the agency.
The dangerous virus was eliminated from the US in 2000 — but there are now 555 cases across 20 states, the CDC said this week. New York City has declared a local outbreak to be a public health emergency and issued a mandatory vaccination order. In Santa Clara County, which includes Mountain View, there are four confirmed cases of measles, public health officials said Tuesday.
Public health experts blame the resurgence, at least in part, on the spread of anti-vaccine falsehoods on social media platforms. In February, BuzzFeed News found that YouTube’s algorithm continued to promote anti-vax videos even while facing pressure from US lawmakers to curb the content. Following that story, YouTube demonetized, or removed ads, from those videos.
“We have strict policies that govern what videos we allow ads to appear on, and videos that promote anti-vaccination content are a violation of those policies,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement to BuzzFeed News last month. “We enforce these policies vigorously.”
In 2015, Wired reported that one daycare at Google had a 68% measles vaccination rate, although Google contested the accuracy of the article at the time.
Even though measles is highly contagious, the warning about the diagnosed employee has not been universally circulated within Google or its parent company, Alphabet. Five employees told BuzzFeed News they had not received the email or been otherwise told about the potential exposure.
The source who sent BuzzFeed News the email said they believed it went to everyone who worked in the 1295 Charleston building. And some employees who received the original email posted it on internal Google groups or forwarded it to colleagues in other buildings in case they recently visited 1295 Charleston, the person said.
The building is the home office for a number of Google executives. It’s unclear how many people work in the building.
Here is the email from Google occupational medicine physician David Kaye to some employees on April 13, 2019:
This note is just a precaution. A Googler who was in Charleston 1295 on Thursday, April 4, has been diagnosed with measles.
We have been working with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and they would like us to share this measles advisory, which contains information on measles, exposure risks and actions to be taken. More information (including a list of frequently asked questions) can be found on the CDC’s page on measles.
If you have any additional concerns, or have specific questions about your health, please contact your primary care provider. If you learn that you have a confirmed case of measles, please us know at go/illness.
Caroline O’Donovan contributed reporting to this story.
This story was updated with a statement from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.