Chickenpox Outbreak Hits Orthodox Jewish Community in Williamsburg

City health officials say there’s been an outbreak of chickenpox in the Orthodox Jewish community in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

Seventy-five children have gotten the virus since March, and 72 percent of the kids infected in Brooklyn were not vaccinated, the city health department says.

The median age of patients in the outbreak is 3 years old, but there are victims as old as 10, according to the city.

Chickenpox is highly contagious, especially when people scratch itching lesions.

“Those droplets, when they burst, leach out the virus into the air, and so the virus becomes airborne,” said Dr. Len Horovitz of Lenox Hill Hospital.

“It just seems kind of ridiculous,” said Ellie Kaufmann, who lives in Williamsburg and is among the neighbors who weren’t happy to hear about the exposure risk. “I think it’s been scientifically proven that vaccines are a smart choice. They keep everyone healthier. They prevent outbreaks. They prevent healthy people from getting sick.”

In fact, the community has seen several preventable outbreaks in the last few years: mumps, measles and whooping cough. Most kids who get chickenpox will be fine within about four days, but there are some groups of people for whom chickenpox can be very dangerous.

“Adults are really at risk,” said Horovitz. “Pregnant women, newborns, can die from chickenpox. They have viremia, encephalitis, seizures and death.”

Anyone who’s been exposed should see a doctor; vaccination is not too late.

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