The city health department on Thursday identified five Brooklyn yeshivas that let unvaccinated students attend school amid a measles outbreak that has already sickened 137 kids and 21 adults.
The five religious schools serve the Orthodox Jewish community that’s been battling a sweep of the potentially deadly disease since October.
By allowing unvaccinated children to attend classes, the yeshivas defied a city Health Department mandate to keep them at home during the outbreak. Three of the five schools let students attend while contagious, the city said.
The five yeshivas — Bnos Square and Bnos Chayil, both in Williamsburg, and Bnos Chayil, Tiferes Bnos and Simche Kinder, all in Borough Park — could be subjected to fines for breaking the directive.
“We’re very concerned about this…This is not a good thing and this is not a safe thing and we have to convince people to do things otherwise because there could be much bigger ramifications if this is not addressed. The health department is all over this and we’re hoping for a resolution soon,” Mayor de Blasio said Thursday at an unrelated press conference.
Measles is a highly contagious disease and can cause pneumonia, swelling of the brain and death. Measles is preventable with the measles-mumps-rubella — MMR — vaccine.
The Health Department in December announced mandatory exclusions for students in certain parts of Borough Park and Williamsburg that have not received the required number of doses of measles vaccine.
“As the city’s doctor, and a pediatrician, I am very concerned that children without the measles vaccination, are at unnecessary risk for serious, and potentially fatal, symptoms related to measles,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “The outbreak is not over, and we will continue to see additional cases as long as unvaccinated students are not properly excluded from attending school.”
In January, Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov Pupa in Williamsburg went out of compliance with the city’s exclusion order, allowing an unvaccinated student who had measles but had not yet begun presenting symptoms to attend school.
That yeshiva was connected to 28 cases in students and an additional 14 cases directly linked to the school, contributing to a large increase in measles cases and the continuation of the outbreak, the city said Thursday.
None of the 158 people — the majority under age 18 — afflicted with the disease have died, although 11 had to be hospitalized, with a child put in the intensive care unit.
In the past week, the Health Department identified 25 new cases: nine who were diagnosed in the past week and 16 who had contracted the disease but were found after symptoms subsided.
Most of these recent cases are from Williamsburg — but two were from Borough Park.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, five people, including the initial case of measles, acquired measles 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. None of the 25 most recently added cases are travel related, the city said.