Fact Sheet On The Measles Outbreak in Orthodox Jewish Communities in Brooklyn


The Health Department announced Thursday that it has identified 17 cases of measles in the last week.

The Department has confirmed 90 total cases of measles in Brooklyn since early October. Eight of the 17 newly reported cases were identified after the fact of their illness because they had not sought medical care at the time of their symptoms. The additional 9 cases were diagnosed in February. Two of the newly reported cases are located in Borough Park, and 15 are in Williamsburg.

To further protect the community during this outbreak, the Health Department is expanding vaccination recommendations for providers serving the Orthodox Jewish community to include an early, extra dose of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine for children between the ages of 6 months to 11 months who live in Williamsburg and Borough Park. The Health Dept is working with the affected community, schools, and healthcare providers to prevent contact between unvaccinated children and individuals who might have been exposed to measles.

[Measles Outbreak: NYC Hospitals Tightening Admittance Policies at NICUs & Other Sensitive Locations]

The Health Department mandates that every student in selected zip codes in Borough Park and Williamsburg who are attending child care or yeshivas have the required number of doses of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine in order to attend school. Students cannot return to school until they are appropriately vaccinated, or until the outbreak is declared over, even if they have an approved religious or medical exemption to measles immunization.

“Parents who oppose vaccinations for measles and all other illnesses not only put their own children at risk, but endanger other children and families as well,” said Councilman Mark Levine (Chair of the Council Committee on Health). “As Israel and other nations are facing outbreaks, the risk of measles affecting our New York communities is particularly acute in neighborhoods where international travel is common and frequent. I strongly urge all parents across the city to ensure their children are up to date on all American Medical Association (AMA) recommended vaccinations.”

“The ongoing measles outbreak in Williamsburg and Borough Park highlights the urgency needed to address this crisis,” said Councilman Stephen Levin (Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Downtown Brooklyn). “Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that requires all of us coming together to stop its spread – just this past week, seventeen new cases have been identified. We need to step up our efforts to keep our communities safe and healthy. I applaud the New York City Department of Health for working with community leaders and expanding its work to prevent contact between unvaccinated children and individuals who might be at risk of exposure.”

“I’m grateful to Mayor de Blasio and his team at the Department of Health for their immediate actions to protect our community’s children,” said Councilman Kalman Yeger (Borough Park, Midwood, Bensonhurst). “This is a clear issue of pikuach nefesh. Once again, it is imperative that parents immediately vaccinate their children. It is just as imperative that our parents and yeshivas take all the necessary precautions to keep unvaccinated children away from harm. For this reason, DOH must take this drastic step to require unvaccinated children to be excluded from school until they receive the required vaccinations or the crisis has passed.”

“Vaccinating children is one of the most basic ways a parent can protect their child’s health,” said Councilman Chaim Deutsch (Brighton Beach, Marine Park, Midwood). “These new cases of measles out breaking within the Orthodox community are worrisome, particularly for parents of children too young to be fully vaccinated against the measles. I urge parents who are traveling with young children to follow Health Department recommendations and vaccinate their kids. I thank the Health Department for their efforts to do outreach and spread the word to ensure New York families are protected.”

“It says in the Torah “V’nishmartem Meod L’nafshoseichem”, that a person must guard their health,” said Rabbi David Niederman, President of the UJO of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn. “It is abundantly clear on the necessity for parents to ensure that their children are vaccinated, especially from Measles.”

“We are very concerned about the continued upward tick of measles in our area despite concentrated and valiant efforts by DOH. We are also doing everything in our power to stop the disease from spreading further in our community and especially in our yeshivas,” said Rabbi Avi Greenstein, CEO of the Borough Park Jewish Community Council. “It is imperative that every member of our community protect themselves and their families by getting vaccinated. It is equally imperative to understand that prevention is key. As such, we need to take away the lesson of how important it is for every one of us to avail ourselves of modern medicine and not to trust in herd immunity, but rather to follow the vaccination schedule recommended by medical professionals to protect our families and our entire community.”

Measles Cluster in Brooklyn

  • There are now 90 confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn.
  • 81 cases are children younger than 18 years old; 9 are adults.
  • Three infections, including the initial case of measles, were acquired by children on a visit to Israel, where a large outbreak of the disease is occurring. One case was acquired from the U.K. and one from Ukraine.
  • There has been transmission in schools with children who are unvaccinated or who have not received two doses of the vaccine.
  • There are no deaths associated with these cases, although there have been complications, including 7 hospitalizations with one child who was in the intensive care unit.

Measles Background

  • Measles is a highly contagious disease. Young children, the immunocompromised, and non-immune pregnant women are at highest risk for severe complications.
  • Measles is transmitted by airborne particles, droplets, and direct contact with the respiratory secretions of an infected person.
  • Rash and fever are the typical symptoms of measles. The rash usually starts on the face and proceeds down the body. The rash lasts several days.
  • Infected individuals are contagious from four days before rash onset through the fourth day after rash appearance.

Precautions to Take

  • You can prevent measles by making sure you and your family have received MMR vaccine. If you or your child need to be vaccinated, call your healthcare provider. If you need help finding an MMR vaccine, call 311 to access a list of facilities that can provide MMR at low or no cost.
  • There are large outbreaks of measles in Europe and Israel. Make sure you have been vaccinated with MMR vaccine before traveling to Europe or Israel. Infants ages 6 to 11 months should also be vaccinated prior to international travel.
  • If you think you were exposed to measles, contact your health care provider before seeking care to prevent exposure to other patients.

City Actions to Date

The Health Department has conducted extensive outreach to medical providers and residents in the affected communities:

  • Extensive follow up of measles cases and their contacts
  • Ensuring providers have adequate supplies of MMR vaccine
  • Technical assistance to healthcare providers caring for this community
  • Dissemination of information to schools and parents in affected communities
  • Robocalls in English and Yiddish to households in the community
  • Placed English and Yiddish ads in local newspapers
  • Distributed informational posters to healthcare providers
  • Held three phones calls with the Jewish press

Child care facilities, schools, and medical providers should report persons with suspected immediately to the Health Department. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/health and search for “measles.” New Yorkers should call 311 to access a list of facilities that can provide MMR at low or no cost.

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  1. This is a national issue involving all ethnic and religious groups, and has nothing to with religion or ethnicity, but with who is ignoring the well establsihed medical mandates to get vaccinations that are almost universally considered non-controversial except by fringe fools.