Measles virus infects 21 victims after leaders of Williamsburg yeshiva allow sick kid in class

Measles virus infects 21 victims after leaders of Williamsburg yeshiva allow sick kid in class
Photo by Colin Mixson

Educators at a Williamsburg yeshiva allowed a virulent measles outbreak to infect 21 new victims by letting an unvaccinated child attend class there, according to the city’s chief physician, who urged parents to inoculate their kids against the potentially fatal illness.

“As a pediatrician, I can’t stress enough how critical it is to vaccinate children against measles,” said Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Measles is a serious, highly contagious, and potentially deadly infection. Complications and fatalities are rare but do happen.”

Leaders of Wilson Street’s Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov permitted the unvaccinated youngster to mingle with his mates, even though the school is subject to an emergency-health measure that mandates schools within certain parts of Williamsburg and Borough Park — where the measles virus infected 121 people since October — prohibit kids who have not received the required number of doses of the MMR vaccine from attending classes, according to Health Department reps.

The unvaccinated pupil did not display symptoms at the time, but already contracted the virus, and the highly contagious airborne pathogen soon swept through the school.

Health Department spokesman Michael Lanza could not immediately say when the outbreak at Kehilath Yakov began, and added that agency officials have yet to issue any violations or penalties in the wake of the new infections. But Barbot issued a signed “commissioner’s order” reinforcing the emergency mandate to yeshiva leaders, who may be penalized if they further violate the demand, according to Lanza.

Health Department sleuths tracked the wider outbreak of the disease in Brooklyn to an initial case a Kings Countian contracted during an October visit to Israel, where another outbreak of the virus is in full swing. In the five boroughs, the illness has only spread among members of the Orthodox Jewish community, with all but one case originating in Kings County, according to agency spokeswoman Stephanie Buhle.

And news of the 21 additional measles cases prompted Orthodox Councilmen Kalman Yeger (D–Borough Park) and Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay) to join city health officials and other experts in their calls for vaccination, with Yeger stressing the importance of immunization to members of his community.

“It is imperative that parents immediately vaccinate their children,” he said. “It is just as imperative that our parents and yeshivas take all the necessary precautions to keep unvaccinated children away from harm.”

Kehilath Yakov staffers declined to comment.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.