Chicken pox outbreak hits Brooklyn Hasidic neighborhood

(JTA) – The New York Health Department is investigating an outbreak of chicken pox in a Hasidic Jewish neighbourhood of Brooklyn.

Some 75 cases of the varicella virus have been documented in Williamsburg since March, according to reports.

All of the cases involve children age 10 or under, and most have affected three-year-olds, the Gothamist reported. Some 72 per cent of the children affected did not receive a vaccination against the contagious illness, which is given in two phases: at 12 months and four years.

The city Health Department is advising all parents to have their children vaccinated against the virus.

The department distributed pamphlets on Sunday in both English and Yiddish about the outbreak in the neighbourhood.

Hasidim are seen as averse to vaccines, but a Health Department representative told The Forward in 2014 that 96 per cent of students at yeshivas in Brooklyn are vaccinated. The large Hasidic families sometimes delay vaccines, however, according to reports.

In 2013, Williamsburg and another Hasidic community in Brooklyn, Borough Park, faced a serious measles outbreak, with 58 cases reported from March to June – 30 in Williamsburg and 28 in Borough Park. Those cases involved adults or children who had no documentation of being vaccinated at the time of exposure because they refused or due to delays.

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