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Chicken Pox Outbreak in Orthodox Williamsburg, City Warns

By Gwynne Hogan | May 17, 2016 11:00am
 There have been 75 cases of chicken pox reported since March in Hasidic Williamsburg, according to the city's Health Department. 
There have been 75 cases of chicken pox reported since March in Hasidic Williamsburg, according to the city's Health Department. 
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WILLIAMSBURG — The city health department said they are investigating a chicken pox outbreak that has struck the Orthodox Jewish community in South Williamsburg, infecting 75 people, mostly unvaccinated children, since March.

Three quarters of the people stricken had not been vaccinated against varicella, the virus that causes the chicken pox rash. The rest had received one dose of the vaccine and hadn't finished the course, according to the city.

Jennifer Rosen, the director of Epidemiology and Surveillance at the city's Immunization Bureau, urged health care workers and families in the surrounding area to make sure they either had immunity to chicken pox or had been vaccinated. 

"Please ensure that your patients and staff are up to date with varicella vaccine," she wrote in a release, adding that two doses of the vaccine are 98 percent effective at preventing chicken pox.

"Infants, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and immunocompromised persons are at risk for more severe disease and complications," she said. "Complications include pneumonia, bacterial infection of the skin and soft tissues, meningitis, encephalitis, birth defects and death."

People who aren't immune to chicken pox start to show symptoms between 10 and 21 days after exposure.

In 2013, an outbreak of measles spread throughout Orthodox neighborhoods, including Williamsburg, infecting 58 people, the largest outbreak in the U.S. since 1996, according to the Center for Disease Control. None of those who caught the virus had been vaccinated against it.