Brooklyn, NY- A chicken pox outbreak that has swept through Williamsburg’s Jewish community has prompted the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to issue an alert to physicians throughout the city, warning about the possible spread of the highly contagious varicella virus.
75 cases of chicken pox have been reported in Williamsburg since the beginning of March, all in children aged 10 and under, with a median age of three years in the reported cases.
72 percent of the cases occurred in children who were not immunized at all against chicken pox, while 14 percent had begun, but not completed, the two part vaccine series.
The first dose of the varicella immunization is typically given at age 12 to 15 months, with a follow up booster at age four to complete the series. Two doses of the vaccine are recommended for all children and adults who do not have immunity to the virus, which can be determined via a blood test.
Christopher Miller, press secretary for the city’s Department of Health, said that the reported cases included both children who had been following the recommended vaccine schedule but hadn’t been immunized against varicella, as well as those who were behind on other immunizations as well.
Vaccinations have become a highly charged issue with some parents steadfastly refusing to immunize their children.
As previously reported on VIN News(http://goo.gl/9TVwX10), a growing movement of parents who ask their doctors to delay vaccinations has been met with concern as unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children expose their peers to infectious diseases. As of September 1, 2015, New York State requires all children to be up to date on their immunizations before starting school.
The Department of Health urged physicians to make sure that all of their staff and patients have received the chickenpox vaccine which is 98 percent effective at preventing the disease which can cause pneumonia, bacterial infection, meningitis, encephalitis, birth defects and death.
The alert also instructed doctors to give early treatment to those in high risk groups, which includes pregnant women, and advised medical professionals to follow strict protocols for those exposed to the virus who lack immunity, which could include home confinement for a full 21 days after exposure.\
Miller said that the outbreak has, so far, been confined to Williamsburg.
“No other chickenpox outbreaks have been reported in NYC recently,” Miller told VIN News.
The Department of Health has been reaching out to the Williamsburg community, distributing pamphlets written in both English and Yiddish at a Hatzolah health fair this past Sunday.
Letters warning about the outbreak are being distributed to the community through schools and Yeled V’Yalda, a Brooklyn-based social services agency for children.
Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg said that community leaders are working on containing the outbreak and have scheduled a meeting on Wednesday with health care providers, school officials and representatives of the Department of Health.