Measles outbreak hits ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Israel and US

Religion News Service | 11/9/2018 | Staff
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JERUSALEM (RNS) — Sarah Samson, a mother of four, says she became “very upset” when she learned that a girl in her daughters’ school here had come down with the measles.

“The school is haredi,” Samson said, using the Hebrew term for ultra-Orthodox. “In our community there are so many pregnant women and families with many babies. If I was pregnant or had a child under the age of 1, I’d be freaking out.”

Measles - Virus - Symptoms - Rash - Complications

Measles, a highly contagious virus whose symptoms include a telltale rash, can also cause severe complications and even death. At greatest risk are children too young to be vaccinated, the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses or a suppressed immune system.

The outbreak in Israel and an ensuing outbreak in the U.S. have hit ultra-Orthodox Jewish enclaves in both countries particularly hard. Dozens have contracted the virus in New York and New Jersey, and more than 1,400 people — the majority of them haredi — have fallen ill in Israel, half of them in October alone.

Israeli - Toddler - Measles - Parents - Members

One Israeli toddler died after contracting measles from his parents, who are reportedly members of an extremist ultra-Orthodox sect that does not recognize any government authority or comply with governmental health regulations.

On social media, some angry Israelis said the toddler’s parents should face criminal charges for endangering their child and others. On Wednesday, the Yeshiva World reported that several prominent Israeli rabbis have signed a document that reads, “Whoever isn’t vaccinated is a murderer.”

Dr - Hagai - Levine - Secretary - Israel

But Dr. Hagai Levine, secretary of the Israel Measles Elimination Committee, attributed the outbreak in Israel mostly to a shortage of pediatric nurses and the complicated logistics of raising a large haredi family.

“There is nothing explicitly religious causing these outbreaks, and vaccination refusal is rare,” he emphasized.

Levine - Government - Number - Nurses - Health

Levine blamed the Israeli government, saying the number of nurses who provide health...
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