Since March, 75 people were infected with chicken pox in a South Williamsburg Orthodox Jewish community. The NYC health department is investigating the outbreak which almost exclusively affected infants and children up to 10 years old who were not vaccinated against the varicella virus or hadn’t finished the vaccination course.
In 2013, the largest US measles outbreak since 1996 spread through Orthodox Williamsburg, infecting 58 people, according to the Center for Disease Control. (The Brooklyn Hassidic Jews were dethroned by the Amish in Ohio in 2014, with a measles breakout of 383 cases.) None of the infected Brooklyn residents were vaccinated—a few were too young, but mostly denied or delayed vaccinations by their parents fearing the garbage theory that vaccines are linked to autism. A Borough Park doctor told the New Daily News, “We have to tell them it is a very contagious disease and that people can die.”
“Because I am Jewish, it is (perhaps) safe for me to ask it: what the f**k is going on in these areas of Brooklyn?” Kent Sepkowitz wrote at The Daily Beast during the 2013 measles fiasco, noting a then-recent mumps outbreak. “How and why does the same group meet time and again with the same calamity of developing quite serious, completely preventable infections?”
The explanation is easy: illnesses spread quickly in isolated neighborhoods, densely populated with large families and many young children. Now try treating the parents’ chronic distrust for medical regulations and government advice, like hey, maybe don’t suck the blood off a newly circumcised baby because that could give him herpes.